We can all identify a sparrow, right? A small brown bird that you see in and around shrubbery and occasionally at your feeders. Would it surprise you to know that there are at least 35 species of sparrows and even subspecies of some of those types? And, since they are such a small and active bird, identification can be a definite challenge. It’s no wonder they are often called LBJ….Little Brown Jobs.
Since we have several types that are common to our area in the winter, why not throw some black oil sun flower seeds on the ground around your shrubs and feeders and see if you can attract some sparrows and spot the differences. The most common that you may be seeing on Seabrook Island are the Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, the Savannah Sparrow, and the White Throated Sparrow (this one at least has a name that gives you a clue). This page from The Great Backyard Birding Count on The Cornell Lab site, Identifying Some Common Sparrows, keeps it simple by offering a quick reference to the best identifiers of some types of sparrows.
The Chipping Sparrow has a rust red colored cap and a black line going through his eye. The adult lacks the streaked chest of some sparrows. You might also notice that he is one of the smaller of these four sparrows.
The Savannah Sparrow is another small sparrow, but with streaking on its chest. You will have to catch the yellow eyebrows and whitish crown stripe to correctly identify him.
The Song Sparrow has more prominent streaking on its chest that comes together in one central dark spot. Besides possibly being a little larger than the other sparrows, you may notice him scratching simultaneously with both feet to expose seeds.
A white throat and yellow patch between the eye and bill might be the best ways to identity the White-throated Sparrow. This larger sparrow also has a gray breast. However, you might identify the song first as he sings “Sweet Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada”.
So keep your binoculars and bird books handy and challenge yourself to identify some specific types of sparrows this winter.
Submitted by: Joleen Ardaiolo
Photos from The Great Backyard Birding Count on The Cornell Lab site, Identifying Some Common Sparrows