Are you intimidated by sparrows? If so, this quiz may help you learn to distinguish sparrow species. Or if you're a master, test your mettle!
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Identifying "LBJs"—Little Brown Jobs

Dawn HewittBy Dawn Hewitt
Managing Editor | Bird Watcher's Digest

Are you intimidated by sparrows? Do you take a quick look at one and write it off as an unidentifiable LBJ (little brown job)? If so, this quiz may calm your fears and help you learn to distinguish sparrow species. Or if you’re already skilled at sparrow ID, here’s a chance to test your mettle! Admittedly, sparrow ID can be tricky. Regional variation in species means that some sparrows shown here might look different from the same species in your neighborhood. All of the species included here are found widely across North America at some time of the year. Many of the species in this quiz breed in the North and winter in the South. Some of these sparrows are year-round residents where they occur.

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Mystery Sparrow #1
Let’s start with an easy one. This sparrow is named for its appearance. Adults are distinctive. Aside from its namesake field mark, notice the gray, unmarked breast and long tail.
a) White-throated sparrow
b) White-crowned sparrow
c) Five-striped sparrow
d) Pink-billed sparrow
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Mystery Sparrow #2
By mid-October, this small sparrow has changed from its bright breeding plumage to something a bit more drab. It still has a black eyeline, a plain grayish breast, and white wing bars. Hint: This sparrow is named for its vocalization.
a) Chipping sparrow
b) Song sparrow
c) Bell's sparrow
d) Sam Peabody's sparrow
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Mystery Sparrow #3
Here’s a sparrow that looks the same year ’round, but varies regionally. Depending upon the subspecies, its upper breast can be solid or spotted; it can have wing bars—or not; and its breast spotting can be rusty or dark. The spots on its breast and belly are usually distinctively arrow shaped. Hint: The bird is usually reddish.
a) Fox sparrow
b) Rufous-sided sparrow
c) Pink-sided sparrow
d) Reddish sparrow
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Events and Happenings
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Reader Rendezvous: Amazing Birds of Spain—Two Spots Left!
Spain ranks high on the lists of travelers of all sorts—those seeking sun, culture, art, history, music, food, and wine. But increasingly Spain is becoming known as a world-class birding destination. Extremadura, one of the most naturally beautiful regions in Iberia, is renowned for its large numbers of raptors, including golden eagle, Spanish imperial eagle, booted eagle, short-toed eagle, and Bonelli's eagle. In Andalucia, we'll visit mainly wetland habitats, including the world-famous Doñana National Park, which is sure to yield a massive haul of special birds. The trip is limited to 19 participants and 2 seats are still available.
Out There with the Birds #44
Out There with the Birds #44: Hooray for Bird Clubs and Feasts of Birdin'!
The boys connected via the Interweb to chat about the importance of bird clubs, favorite Feasts of Birdin' (eateries) near birding hotspots, the upcoming (potential) winter finch invasion, and Ben's latest life bird (and head cold). Bill shares his newest musical recommendation: the band Phox, from Madison, Wisconsin.
This Birding Life #85: Cape A-May-Zing: A Visit to Cape May, New Jersey
Join host Bill Thompson, III, on his recent birding tour of renowned hotspot Cape May, New Jersey, where he interviews Tom Reed, Mark Garland, and Dr. David LaPuma, expert migration counters from the Cape May Bird Observatory. Along the way he visits the Avalon Seawatch, the Cape May Point Hawk Watch, and South Cape May Meadows talking about migrating seabirds, raptors, songbirds, and monarch butterflies.
North Shore Birding Festival
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OUR COVER SPECIES
White-tailed Ptarmigan: Worth the Extra Mile
It blends in with its rocky habitat in summer, but is nearly invisible in snow. Author Steve Shunk went to great heights to see this cryptic bird of high elevations—as is required.
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MIGRATIONS
Seabirds in the Land of Fire and Ice
Scott Weidensaul weaves a harrowing tale of an 1,800-mile ride in a turbo-prop plane over uninhabited volcanic islands and frigid seas, bad weather, and nearly running out of gas, to find nesting seabird colonies threatened by rats. It's a page-turner, and the photos are sweet!
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FAR AFIELD
Santa Maria Valley-Style Birding
Despite being between the well-known birding meccas of Santa Barbara and Morrow Bay, Santa Maria Valley, is both a hotspot and a birding frontier. Just 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, it offers oak woodland, grassland, and sage habitats, and California specialty birds.
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