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How to Identify Birds: The Song Sparrow

The song sparrow nests throughout the U.S., and is one of the best known North American birds. With these guidelines, you should have no difficulty identifying it.


  • Step 1: Observe the bird's size and shape Consider the bird's appearance through binoculars and compare it with the pictures in your field guide. Song sparrows have stout bills and rounded heads, their tails are long and rounded, and their wings are broad.
  • Step 2: Observe the bird's color Consider the bird's color. Song sparrows have brown streaks on their white chests and flanks, although the color of shading and degree of streaking vary considerably across North America.
  • TIP: There are more than two dozen subspecies of the song sparrow in North America.
  • Step 3: Observe the bird's behavior Consider the bird's behavior. Song sparrows are usually found in dense, low vegetation or low branches, occasionally in open areas. Males sing from exposed perches.
  • Step 4: Observe the bird's song Consider the bird's song. The song sparrow's voice starts with zeet-zeet-zeet, and then switches to a buzz.
  • TIP: There is essentially no variation in the bird's song across subspecies throughout North America.
  • Step 5: Observe the bird's habitat Consider the habitat where you observe the bird. Song sparrows are typically found in open, brushy habitats such as overgrown fields and backyards. Song sparrows are common visitors to bird feeders and often build nests in residential areas.
  • FACT: Female song sparrows are noted for their tendency to henpeck their mates by opening their mouths and giving small pecks.

You Will Need

  • Binoculars
  • Field guide

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