Sparrows are a fairly large group of birds, but they aren’t the most colorful. Sparrows come in a variety of shapes and sizes, making it difficult for bird enthusiasts to tell them apart and forcing them to seek their field guides. They’re also referred to as “LBB” or tiny brown birds. We’ll take a look at 17 of the most popular sparrow species in North America in this article.
WHAT IS A SPARROW?
Sparrows are commonly known as “songbirds” or “perching birds,” and belong to the passerine family of birds. Sparrows are relatively tiny birds. Insects are eaten by some, although they are mostly seed eaters and have cone-shaped beaks that help them husk seeds. They have streaks down their backs and wings and are brown or grey in color. The color patterns on their head and face are frequently the easiest way to distinguish them.
Swamps, grasslands, forests, pastures, and everything in between are all habitats where sparrows may be found. In North America, there are approximately 40 different types of sparrows. Others can only be found in very restricted areas, while others are quite common. On a walk, in the park, on the beach, or in your own yard, let’s take a look at the more common sparrows that you’re most likely to encounter.
TYPES OF SPARROWS
1. SONG SPARROW (MELOSPIZA MELODIA)
Gray and brown with strong warm brown streaks, song sparrows are a sight to see. They may be found in abundance all throughout the United States and Canada. They’ve created a lot of regional distinctions in their coloring, size, and song due to their popularity. The males will sing to attract females and defend territory throughout the spring and summer on exposed branches. They also sing a lot! Males and femen prefer to nest in tall grasses and weeds, where they may be found searching for places to nest. Song sparrows are used to nesting near humans and will visit bird feeders.
2. FIELD SPARROW (SPIZELLA PUSILLA)
The wing of field sparrows is striped brown and white, with a pink beak, a brown head, and a brown mark behind the eye. The eastern half of the United States is home to these tiny sparrows. The more overgrown the better in grasslands, prairies, and fields. Unfortunately, as these open fields have turned into suburbs, where they will not breed, their numbers have plummeted.
3. CHIPPING SPARROW (SPIZELLA PASSERINA)
The breast and belly of chipping sparrows are gray, while the wings are brown and black with a black eye-line and a brilliant rusty crown. They can be found in woodlands and grassy forests, as well as parks and suburban backyards, all throughout North America. At birdfeeders, chipping sparrows are ubiquitous, and they especially enjoy eating seeds on the ground. Males compete for territory throughout the summer, but during the fall and winter, they flock together in flocks.
4. HOUSE SPARROW (PASSER DOMESTICUS)
House sparrows may be found throughout the whole United States, Mexico, and portions of Canada all year. They have an exceptional capacity to thrive in urban areas. Man-made constructions, like eaves, shopping mall signs, and street lights, are preferred nesting places for them. These sparrows were brought to North America from Europe in 1851, and they are not natural here. Native birds, on the other hand, may be plagued by them. They kill both young and adults in the takeover of nest boxes from other species such as bluebirds and swallows. Males who have more black on their face and chest are thought to be older and more powerful than younger males.
5. FOX SPARROW (PASSERELLA ILIACA)
The rich red and orange coat of a fox inspired the name Fox Sparrow. This coloring is only found in a few fox sparrows. Red, Sooty, Slate-colored, and Thick-billed are the four distinct color groups that may seem to be very different from one another. In various parts of North America, these color differences emerge. They’re a common sparrow that prefers to live in thickets and brush, rather than out in the open. They’re more likely to visit fruiting shrubs than yard feeders, where they may pick at the seed that has fallen to the ground.
6. SWAMP SPARROW (MELOSPIZA GEORGIANA)
The eastern third of North America is home to swamp sparrows. They breed in Canada and northern United States throughout the summer. In the United States, states are followed by winter. Mexico and the United States are also represented. The face of these sparrows is gray, with buffy sides and brown streaked wings. They also have a rusty head and black eye stripe. Swamp Sparrows prefer to hide among high reeds, brush, and vegetation and only nest in wetland environments. Because they wade through marsh water while foraging, they have somewhat longer legs than other sparrows.
7. WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (ZONOTRICHIA ALBICOLLIS)
The White-throated Sparrow may be found across most of the United States. During the winter, they migrate to Canada to mate. Their bold facial pattern of black and white stripes with yellow spots between the eyes makes them easier to identify among sparrows, as does their white throat patch. Females often build nests in secret places of heavy brush and vegetation, which are sometimes on or just above the ground. These sparrows like to pick up seed off the ground and will visit your backyard feeder. Keep some brush piles nearby so these sparrows can hide in them.
8. VESPER SPARROW (POOECETES GRAMINEUS)
The breast is light brown and the belly is plain, with a white ring around the eye and white outer tail feathers. Vesper sparrows have a striped back and wings. During the breeding season, this field and grasslands sparrow can be found in northern North America, from June to August, and southern North America from September to November. This sparrows propensity to sing after dark when most other birds have gone quiet is referred to as Vesper, which means “evening song.” When they sing, they prefer to be out in the open, and they will choose elevated perches such as wires, fence posts, and shrub tops.
9. WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (ZONOTRICHIA LEUCOPHRYS)
White-crowned sparrows migrate back and forth across the United States during the winter, spending the summer in Canada and Alaska. They may live year-round in isolated parts of the midwest. White-crowned sparrows have a boldly striped head and chest, as well as a plain buffy brown-gray belly, making them one of the easiest sparrows to identify. In fields, around road and trail borders, and in the vicinity of roads. Sparrows will visit bird feeders, but they are more likely to pick up fallen seed on the ground.
10. LARK SPARROW (CHONDESTES GERAMMACUS)
The multicolored head of the Lark sparrow distinguishes it as a bigger sized bird. White, black, tan, and warm brown are arranged in a distinctive pattern. The tip of the tail has white markings on the edges, and they have a light chest with one central black mark.
In the United States, nor in most parts of Canada, Lark Sparrows are not commonly found east of the Mississippi River. In the central and western United States, they spend the breeding season. Next, winter in Mexico. Grasslands, plains, and prairies are all places to look for them. During courting, males dance for females, and the dancings may last many minutes.
11. AMERICAN TREE SPARROW (SPIZELLOIDES ARBOREA)
American Tree sparrows breed in remote parts of North America and move down to the northern part of the United States during the winter. Southern Canada and the United States are also options. The slightly rounded form, rusty head, and bicolored beak that is dark on the top half and yellow on the bottom half are all identifying characteristics of this sparrow. Sparrows specialize on shaking seeds loose from dried grasses and feed in fields. They’ll eat grass and weeds in the backyards, as well as feeders.
12. GRASSHOPPER SPARROW (AMMODRAMUS SAVANNARUM)
In the southern United States, grasshopper sparrows spend the winter. In the summer, they migrate north to breed across the middle and northern sections of the eastern United States, first to Mexico and then to Canada. They have a shorter neck and flat head than other sparrows, and they are on the small side. A large beak with a wide opening, a white eye-ring, and an orange-yellow patch in front of the eye are some of their other unusual characteristics. These birds prefer to remain on the ground, running through open grassland, prairies, pastures, and fields in search of insects and seeds when not singing from a perch. Summer brings them joy in the form of eating grasshoppers, as their name implies. They also give them to their chicks, but only after the legs have been removed.
13. BREWER’S SPARROW (SPIZELLA BREWERI)
Brewer’s sparrows are a more specialized species than many others on this list. They thrive in sagebrush habitat in the west and southwest. They can go weeks without drinking because they are so well adapted to the dry environment. In the Canadian mountains’ timberline, there is also a subspecies. They have been dubbed the “bird without a field mark” because of the sparrow’s drab appearance, and it lacks any obvious distinguishing feature. Males sing their long, trilling song throughout the breeding season, filling the early morning desert landscape.
14. CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (SPIZELLA PALLIDA)
Clay-colored sparrows would be found in a band across the middle of a map of North America, if you imagine it. They migrate north through the middle of the United States after spending the winter in deserts and plains. Spend the breeding season in the United States’ northern-central area. Hedgeshobbs dominate central Canada’s shrublands. Clay-colored sparrows’ breeding area is rather limited since they like to keep their breeding and foraging zones distinct. Their offspring will leave the nest well before they are able to fly. Before they can fly, nestlings rush to a nearby shrub and hide for a full week while being fed by the parents.
15. LINCOLN’S SPARROW (MELOSPIZA LINCOLNII)
The streaking on Lincoln’s sparrows appears to be more finely detailed than that of other medium-sized sparrows. They have a pale eye-ring and chestnut striping on their head. They also have thin brown streaks along their chest and sides. Summer is spent in Canada and Alaska, with a migration through the United States. In the southern United States, winter is in season. Both the United States and Mexico are represented. These birds prefer to stay hidden in meadows and marshes, where they can hide among the vegetation. They might blend in with flocks of other sparrows when migrating.
16. SAVANNAH SPARROW (PASSERCULUS SANDWICHENSIS)
Savannah sparrows may be found in abundance across North America. The first specimen collected, which came from Savannah, Georgia, gave them their name. Meadows, pastures, fields, tidal marshes, and tundra are only a few of the habitats where they may be found throughout their broad range. Savannah sparrows have a yellow stripe across the eye and a short tail, small beak, brown streaking on the breast. Several subspecies have distinct colors and are found in distinct parts of the world. Sparrows’ inclination to return to the same area where they were born adds weight to these subspecies.
17. LECONTE’S SPARROW (AMMOSPIZA LECONTEII)
On our list, LeConte’s sparrow is one of the least common species. Only in the marshy grasslands of the central United States can you find them. This is a stealthy sparrow that hides nearly all of the time in both Canada and the United States. LeConte’s population has decreased as grassland habitat has deteriorated, and they are now on a “watch list” for endangered species. Their gray eye patch and orange skin on the face and flanks makes them a easy pick out if they do appear.