Sparrows aren't the flashiest of birds, but they are a pretty big category. There are many types of sparrows and most have similar sizes, colors and feather patterns that make them difficult to distinguish and leave birders searching for their handlers. In fact, they are often called "LBBs" or little brown birds. In this article, we're going to take a look at 17 of the most common sparrow species in North America.
What is a sparrow?
Sparrows are members of the passerine family of birds, commonly known as "songbirds" or "perching birds." Sparrows are relatively small in size. Some eat insects, but most are seed eaters, and their cone-shaped bills make them adept at shelling seeds. They tend to be brown or gray in color with stripes along the back and wings. Often the best way to tell them apart is by the color patterns on the head and face.
Sparrows can be found in many different habitats such as swamps, grasslands, forests, grasslands, and everything in between. There are more than 40 species of sparrows that live in North America. Some are quite abundant, while others can only be found in very specific regions. Let's take a look at the most common sparrows you're likely to encounter on a hike, at the park, at the beach, or in your own backyard.
types of sparrows
1. Song Sparrow (melospiza melody)
Song sparrows are gray and brown with bold, warm brown streaks. They are very common in the United States and Canada. So common that they have developed many regional differences in coloration, size, and song. During spring and summer, males perch on exposed branches and sing to attract mates and defend territory. And they sing a lot! Males and females seek nesting places together, preferring to build hidden in tall grass and undergrowth. Song sparrows visit bird feeders and are not afraid to nest near humans.
2. Field Sparrow (little spikelet)
Field sparrows have a light gray body with brown and white stripes on the wings, a pink bill, a brown cap, and a brown patch behind the eye. These little sparrows are found in the eastern half of the US in grasslands, prairies, and fields, the more cover the better. Unfortunately, their numbers have declined in many areas as these open fields have been turned into suburbs, where they do not nest.
3. Sparrow Astillado (spizzela passeriforme)
House Sparrows have a light gray chest and belly with brown and black striped wings, a black eye line, and a shiny rusty cap. They can be found throughout North America in grassy wooded and wooded areas, as well as suburban parks and backyards. House sparrows are common at bird feeders and especially like to eat seeds on the ground. While during the summer the males fight each other for territory, during the fall and winter they unite in flocks.
4. House Sparrow (the Sparrow)
House sparrows have an amazing ability to adapt to urban environments and can be found year-round in the United States, Mexico, and parts of Canada. In fact, they prefer to nest in man-made structures, building eaves, mall signs, and streetlights. These sparrows are not native to North America and were introduced to Europe in 1851. Unfortunately, they can be a real problem for native birds. They aggressively take over the nests of other birds, such as bluebirds and terns, killing young and adults alike in the process. Males with more black on the face and chest are thought to be older and more dominant than younger males.
5. Fox Sparrow (iliac passage)
Fox sparrows are named for the rich red and orange fur of a fox. However, only a few fox sparrows have this coloration. There are four distinct color groups that can look quite different from one another: Red, Sooty, Slate, and Thickbill. These color variations occur in different regions of North America. It is a common but solitary sparrow, preferring to stay in thickets and dense bushes. They may go to backyard feeders to pick up any seeds that have fallen to the ground, but they are more likely to visit fruit bushes.
6. Marsh Sparrow (Georgiana Melospiza)
Marsh sparrows can be found in the eastern two-thirds of North America. They spend the summer breeding in Canada and the northernmost states of the US, and then winter in the US and Mexico. These sparrows have a gray face, yellow sides, brown-streaked wings, a rusty cap, and a black eye band. Marsh Sparrows only nest in wetland habitats and like to stay hidden among tall reeds, brush, and vegetation. They actually have slightly longer legs than other sparrows, and this helps them wade through swamp water when looking for food.
7. White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
White-throated sparrows are common throughout much of the United States during the winter, then migrate to Canada in the summer to breed. Their white throat patch makes them easier to spot among sparrows, along with their bold facial pattern of black and white stripes with yellow spots between the eyes. Females often nest on or just above the ground in concealed areas of brush and dense vegetation. These sparrows visit your backyard feeder and like to collect seeds from the ground. To encourage these sparrows, keep a few bush piles nearby where they can hide.
8. Eve Sparrow (pooecetes grass)
Vesper's sparrows have striped backs and wings, light brown breast stripes with a flat belly, a white ring around the eye, and white outer tail feathers. This field and grass sparrow can be found in the northern half of North America during the summer breeding season and in southern North America in the fall and winter. Vesper, meaning "night song," describes this sparrow's habit of singing after sunset, when most other birds are quiet. They like to be outdoors when singing and choose elevated perches such as wires, the tops of fence posts, and the tops of bushes.
9. White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
White-crowned sparrows summer in northern Canada and Alaska, then migrate back to the United States for the winter. In certain areas of the Midwest, they stay year-round. One of the easiest sparrows to identify, white-crowned sparrows have a black and white striped head while the rest of the face, chest, and belly remain light brownish-gray. They like to forage for food in the fields and along the roads and trails. These sparrows will come to bird feeders, but are more likely to stay on the ground and pick up spilled seed.
10. Alondra Sparrow (Chondestes geroumacus)
A larger sparrow, the Lark sparrow's identifying feature is its multicolored head. It has a unique pattern of white, black, beige, and warm brown. They have a pale chest with a central black spot and the tip of the tail has white spots on the edges. Skylark sparrows are not normally found east of the Mississippi River in the US, nor in most of Canada. They spend the breeding season in the central and western parts of the US and then winter in Mexico. Look for them in grasslands, plains, and prairies. Males "dance" for females during courtship, and these dances can last several minutes.
11. American Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea)
House sparrows breed on the tundras of the far north of North America and then migrate a good distance to spend the winter in the northern half of the US and southern Canada. The identifying characteristics of this sparrow are its slightly more rounded shape, the rusty cap and the dark bicolor beak in the upper half and yellow in the lower half. These sparrows feed in the fields and are adept at shaking off dry grass seeds. They will come to backyard feeders and feed through backyard weeds.
12. Grasshopper Sparrow (we are the sheets)
Rockhopper sparrows winter in the southern United States and Mexico, then migrate north in the summer to breed in the central and northern half of the eastern United States. head and neck flat. Other unique features include a deep bill that gives the mouth a larger appearance when open, a white eyering, and a yellow-orange patch in front of the eye. When not singing from a perch, these sparrows like to stay on the ground, scampering through open grasslands, meadows, pastures, and fields in search of insects and seeds. As their name suggests, during the summer they like to eat grasshoppers. They even feed their young, but first they remove their legs.
13. Brew Sparrow (Spizella Brewery)
The Brew Sparrow has a shorter range than many others on this list and is more specialized. In the west and southwest, they live in the sagebrush habitat. They are so well adapted to the dry environment that they can go weeks without drinking. There is also a subspecies that lives in the Canadian highlands. The appearance of this sparrow is so drab that they have been called "field-markless birds" and lack easily distinguishable features. During the mating season, the males fill the desert landscape early in the morning with their long, trilling song.
14. Clay Sparrow (pale spikelet)
If you imagine a map of North America, the clay-colored variety of sparrows would exist in a strip right down the middle. They winter in Mexico in deserts and plains, then migrate across the central US and spend the breeding season in the scrublands of the north-central US and central Canada. Clay Sparrows are very fond of keeping their breeding and feeding areas separate, making their breeding territory quite small. Their young will leave the nest long before they can fly. The chicks quickly run to a nearby bush where they will hide, while their parents feed them, for a full week before they can fly.
15. Pardal de Lincoln (Melospiza lincolnii)
Lincoln's Sparrows are medium-sized sparrows and their stripes look more detailed. They have fine brown stripes along the chest and sides, tan stripes on the head, and a pale eyering. Lincoln's sparrows spend summers in Canada and Alaska, migrate across the United States, and winter in the southern United States and Mexico. These sparrows prefer to hide in the vegetation of meadows and swamps. During migration, they may mix with flocks of other sparrows.
16. Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)
Savannah Sparrows can be found in abundance throughout North America. Its name comes from the first specimen collected, which came from Savannah, Georgia. In fact, they can be found in many habitats across their wide range, including prairies, grasslands, grasslands, marshes, and tundra. Savannah sparrows have a short tail, a small bill, brown stripes on the chest and sides, and a yellow stripe above the eye. There are many subspecies in specific geographic locations, and some have different coloration. These subspecies are enhanced by this sparrow's tendency to migrate back to the same place where it was born.
17. Leconte's Sparrow (Ammospiza leconteii)
LeConte's Sparrow is perhaps the least common on our list. Found only in the swampy prairies of the central US and Canada, this is a secretive sparrow that mostly stays hidden. Due to the decline in grassland habitat, the LeConte's population has also declined and they are now on a "watch list" for vulnerable species. If they appear, the gray eye patch and orange coloration on the face and sides are a good identifier.
What are the different types of sparrows? ›
Old World sparrowsWhat kind of bird feeders do sparrows like? ›
Tray or Platform Feeders
Trays attract the widest variety of seed-eating feeder birds, including pigeons, starlings, and House Sparrows, but also grosbeaks and native sparrows.
Some of the most common species found in North America are the song sparrow, chipping sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, lark sparrow, golden-crowned sparrow, white-throated sparrow, and the savannah sparrow.Do sparrows come to bird feeders? ›
They will feed from feeders with perches as well, but do prefer a flat feeding space. House Sparrows are not adapted to clinging and feeding so feeders that require birds to cling work the best.How many sparrow birds are there? ›
The house sp. is thought to be the most abundant bird in the world, with an estimated population of 1.6 billion individuals. When combined with nearly 200 additional species, there are no doubt many more of these birds than humans in the world!How many sparrow species are there in the US? ›
For starters, there are more “sparrows” than names might suggest. Juncos and towhees, for example, are sparrows, too. Add them up and you get 48 sparrow species in the United States and Canada. And when you include subspecies and groups — which aren't insubstantial — the list is even longer.Can sparrows use a finch feeder? ›
Most finch feeders are designed to attract finches, not necessarily to deter other species, and for the majority of the year this works just fine because finch food is not a favorite of house sparrows. But at this time of year, when sparrows are greedy, they will eat finch food, too.What do sparrows like to eat the most? ›
House sparrows eat grains and seeds, our discarded food, and insects. They're happy to eat many commercial birdseed mixtures. We commonly see them diligently collecting our leavings at outdoor cafes and picnic spots.Are sparrows ground feeders? ›
Ground Feeding Birds
Song thrushes, wrens, chaffinches, dunnocks, blackbirds, house sparrows and robins are birds that mostly scour for insects and other forms of sustenance from soil. Providing feed for these ground-feeding birds may seem unattractive or cumbersome at first due to its immediate disadvantages.
Passerherbulus henslowi henslowi .
How do I identify my sparrow? ›
Male House Sparrows are brightly colored birds with gray heads, white cheeks, a black bib, and rufous neck – although in cities you may see some that are dull and grubby. Females are a plain buffy-brown overall with dingy gray-brown underparts. Their backs are noticeably striped with buff, black, and brown.What sparrows are native to the United States? ›
In western North America there are two sparrow species, the Baird's Sparrow and Golden-crowned Sparrow. There are six sparrow species most likely seen in the eastern states. They are the Bachman's Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Henslow's Sparrow, Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Seaside Sparrow and the Field Sparrow.How do I attract sparrows to my bird feeder? ›
To attract more desirable native sparrows, you need only offer sunflower seed, safflower seed, white proso millet, thistle seeds or cracked corn. Whichever seed you choose, make sure it's on the ground, where sparrows prefer to dine. As general ground-feeding advice, only serve a little bit of seed each day.What do sparrows eat at feeders? ›
House Sparrows readily eat birdseed including millet, milo, and sunflower seeds. Urban birds readily eat commercial bird seed. In summer, House Sparrows eat insects and feed them to their young. They catch insects in the air, by pouncing on them, or by following lawnmowers or visiting lights at dusk.What is a sparrow proof bird feeder? ›
If you choose to use suet with embedded seeds, “upside-down feeders” that only allow access from the bottom will discourage most House Sparrows.What is the largest sparrow? ›
The Harris's Sparrow is the largest sparrow in North America. In breeding plumage, it has a black crown, chin, and upper breast, with gray cheeks and a clear white belly. Its back and wings are heavily streaked, and its bill is pink.What bird looks like a sparrow but bigger? ›
Dickcissel. Though they look similar, the female dickcissel has a longer, heavier bill than the house sparrow and also sports a yellow eyebrow absent in the latter. Of course, these are not the only birds that might be confused with the house sparrow or with native sparrow species.What are the smallest sparrows? ›
Description: The Chipping Sparrow is one of the smallest sparrows. It is easily identified during the breeding season by the reddish-brown cap, white line over the eye, black line through the eye, and pale gray unstreaked chest.Is a fox sparrow rare? ›
These birds forage by scratching the ground, which makes them vulnerable to cats and other predators, though they are generally common. Fox sparrows migrate on the west coast of the United States.What is a tiny sparrow like bird? ›
LeConte's sparrow (Ammospiza leconteii), also known as LeConte's bunting, is one of the smallest New World sparrow species in North America.
What is a sparrow like bird with white wings? ›
White-winged Snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis) -> House Sparrow (Montifringilla nivalis) - BirdID's Bird Guide - Nord University - Birdid.What's the difference between an English Sparrow and a house sparrow? ›
The House Sparrow, Passer domesticus (also known as the English Sparrow), is actually not a sparrow at all but a weaver finch introduced to this country from Europe in the mid-1800s. The male is easily identified by its black throat and chest, which makes him appear as if he is wearing a bib.What's the difference between a house sparrow and a song sparrow? ›
Song sparrow vs. house sparrow – the song sparrow is insectivorous, nests in shrubs, and is a ground forager. The house sparrow is omnivorous, nests in cavities, and is also a ground forager.