Sparrows & Allies

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow, photo by Donna Dewhurst, USFWS

Look for The Savannah sparrow is a small bird with a grayish-brown upperparts with crisp, dark streaks. It has white underparts with narrow, dark streaks on the breast and flanks. It resembles the song sparrow, and sometimes sports a central dark dot on the breast. It has a short tail, though, a smaller, pinkish bill… Read more

Harris’s Sparrow

Harris's Sparrow Photo by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Wiki Commons

Look For Harris’s sparrow is our largest sparrow (7 ½ inches in length), and its combination of a black face and pink bill (in adult birds) makes it relatively easy to identify. First-winter birds have a pale brown head and a white throat. Listen For If you want to hear a Harris’s sparrow sing, you’ll… Read more

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Golden-crowned Sparrow Photo by National Park Service, Alaska Region

Look For An adult golden-crowned sparrow has a golden crown stripe surrounded by black. Slightly larger than, but very similar to, the white-crowned sparrow, the golden is 7 ¼ inches in length. Sub-adult golden-crowned sparrows can be identified by their plain gray face and grayish bill.  Immature birds may have only a hint of the… Read more

Lark Sparrow

Lark sparrow photo by naturepicsonline.com / Wikimedia Commons

Look For No other North American sparrow has the lark sparrow’s combination of a bold, colorful facial pattern and central breast spot. This large sparrow’s bold facial markings of rufous, black, and white are diagnostic. Also note the dark central breast spot on white underparts. White sides and tip of dark tail are especially obvious… Read more

California Towhee

California Towhee Photo by Stickpen via Wiki Commons

Look For The California towhee is a large and plainly marked ground-sparrow. It is about 9 inches in length. It is brown, plain-breasted, and dark-bellied. Listen For The California towhee’s song starts with metallic chips, speeds up, then drops in tone: chip-chip-chichichichi-drrdrrdrr, while their call is a metallic chip! Find It The California towhee is… Read more

Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee Photo by Alan D. Wilson via Wikimedia Commons

Look For This bird is 8 ¾ inches in length. The canyon towhee has a faint rusty cap, is slightly paler overall, and barely smaller than the california towhee, which shows rust on the throat. Canyon usually shows a spotty necklace, central breast spot, and whitish belly. They have no sexual color dimorphism. Listen For… Read more

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee Photo by naturespicsonline.com via Wiki Commons

Look For The spotted towhee’s wings and back of both male and female are spotted with white. They are longer tailed and larger than our other sparrow species. You are most likely to find them foraging on the ground. Listen For Their song is sweet-sweet teeeeaaa! But it’s less musical than an eastern towhee’s song… Read more

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Lincoln's sparrow

Look For Lincoln’s sparrow is often considered one of the more elusive North American birds because of its usually solitary and highly secretive behavior. It is a fairly small sparrow—only 5 ¾ inches in length. Lincoln’s sparrow is a warm, colorful sparrow similar to song sparrow, but smaller and more finely marked. You could say… Read more

Field Sparrow

Look For The field sparrow is a small bird (5 ¾ inches long) with a biggish bill and long tail, but the first field marks most bird watchers notice are the pink bill, plain face, and white ring encompassing the dark eye. Telling the field sparrow apart from chipping or tree sparrows is noticing the… Read more

Clay-colored Sparrow

Clay-colored Sparrow by Kyle Carlsen

Look For A breeding adult has a dark crown, white eye-stripe, and a subtle dark mustache. Interestingly, it is very similar to a non-breeding plumaged chipping sparrow. The clear gray nape and brownish rump on the Clay-colored help separate the two species. Clay-colored sparrows are 5 ½ inches long. Listen For One of the least… Read more

Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhee (Photo: Bill Thompson, III)

Look for Formerly called the rufous-sided towhee (a much more descriptive name), this large (81/2 inches long) sparrow is boldly patterned and spends nearly all its time on the ground scratching among the leaf litter, looking for food. Clean, flashy colors have given the towhee the nickname “Hollywood robin.” In flight, the bird’s white wing… Read more

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco (Photo: William Majoros/Creative Commons)

Look for Juncos are medium-sized (6 ¼ inches long) sparrows, but unlike most sparrows, their plumage lacks streaking. Dark-gray above and white below (or “gray skies above, snow below”), the junco has a conical, pinkish bill and flashes its white outer tail feathers in flight. Male juncos in the East are a darker gray than… Read more

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