Identification of 11 Sparrow Species: a Photographic Guide

With snowfall predicted all of today, I didn’t want to risk getting moisture into my camera during a walk.

Instead, I had a look at my sparrow photographs over the last few years and decided to put together this guide to their identification.

SONG SPARROW

Easily the most commonly seen and heard of the sparrows. (House Sparrows are not true sparrows):

Song Sparrow

Note the heavy breast streaks which converge into a large central spot.

Song Sparrow

This central spot completes a triangle with the dark blotches on each side of the throat.

Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow

SWAMP SPARROW

The Swamp Sparrow has a reddish cap,

Swamp Sparrow

a white throat patch

Swamp Sparrow

and rather reddish wings and tail.

Swamp Sparrow

FIELD SPARROW

The Field Sparrow has a clear breast,

Field Sparrow

a rusty cap

Field Sparrow

and a pink bill.

Field Sparrow

LINCOLN SPARROW

The Lincoln’s Sparrow is similar to the Song Sparrow but the side of the face is grayer.

Lincoln’s Sparrow

The breast streaks are finer and do not aggregate into a central spot.

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Note the band of creamy buff across the breast.

Lincoln’s Sparrow

FOX SPARROW

The Fox Sparrow has rufous tail.

Fox Sparrow

The rusty combined with gray about the neck gives the bird its foxy look.

Fox Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Fox Sparrow

SAVANNAH SPARROW

My grandfather told me that this is the most common farmer’s field bird in Canada. Despite this, I have few photos of it as I am seldom near this habitat.

Savannah Sparrow

It has a whitish crown stripe and a yellowish eyebrow stripe.

Savannah Sparrow

CHIPPING SPARROW

The Chipping Sparrow is a small gray-breasted sparrow.

Chipping Sparrow

Note the black line through the eye and a white line over it.

Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow

AMERICAN TREE SPARROW

The Tree Sparrow has a solid red-brown cap,

American Tree Sparrow

a dark spot on the breast

American Tree Sparrow

and the bill is dark above and yellow below.

American Tree Sparrow

CLAY-COLOURED SPARROW

The Clay-coloured Sparrow is plain-breasted,

Clay-coloured Sparrow

has a light crown stripe

Clay-coloured Sparrow

and a sharply outlined ear patch.

Clay-coloured Sparrow

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW

The White-crowned Sparrow has a clear grayish breast,

White-crowned Sparrow

and a puffy crown striped with black and white.

White-crowned Sparrow

The bill is pink.

White-crowned Sparrow (juvenile)

In migration we see the juvenile which has a brownish head stripe.

White-crowned Sparrow (juvenile)

WHITE-THROATED SPARROW

The White-throated Sparrow is gray breasted,

White-striped White-throated Sparrow

has a white throat

White-throated Sparrow

and a yellow spot between the eye and the bill.

White-striped White-throated Sparrow

There is also a tan-coloured version of this sparrow.

Tan-striped White-throated Sparrow

Miles Hearn

10 thoughts on “Identification of 11 Sparrow Species: a Photographic Guide

  1. John Bohdanowicz

    Thanks, Miles. This is a very useful identification guide.
    I did not know that house sparrows are not true sparrows.

    Reply
  2. Lisa Volkov

    Wow! So many varieties! Great pictures. And so very informative! Thanks, Miles!
    When the right time comes, I would love to see you do the same with Warblers (I hope I got the right spelling, here!)

    Reply
  3. William Rosenfeld

    Miles,
    Brilliant compendium. For years I have struggled to identify the distinctions. I shall bot print this out and keep it in the cloud as a permanent reference!
    Bill

    Reply
  4. Trudy Rising

    Wonderful to have, Miles. I hope you’ll do the same sometime there are two other crummy days — on local shorebirds and hawks! Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Dierdre

    Wow, thanks Miles. I really enjoyed seeing all the varieties
    of sparrows. Being able to expand each photo made it easier to see the specific features you pointed out. Hope you are able to do this for some other birds.

    Reply
  6. Jane Cluver

    Many thanks Miles. This is one for my permanent collection. And thank you for keeping us on our toes re plants during this long drought.

    Reply
  7. Beth Binnington

    Thanks Miles, very helpful. I have never seen several of these that I know of; Fox, Clay coloured, Savannah . Your guide helped me positively ID a small flock of American Tree Sparrows I saw in Kirby last week.
    Beth Binnington

    Reply
  8. rosemarie fischer

    this was a great idea,Miles…..so many beautiful types….and,it is all in the detail!!!! so,if the house sparrow is NOT a sparrow…..what is he then?????? would really like to know…..thank you

    Reply

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