Several other sparrows share the Field Sparrow’s bright reddish-brown crown, including American Tree Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, and Swamp Sparrow. All three of these lack the Field Sparrow’s crisp white eyering. American Tree Sparrow, which is only seen in winter and only in northern North America, has a black-and-yellow bill, instead of a pink bill. It is less warmly colored and typically has gray-white underparts with an ill-defined blackish spot in the center. The legs of American Tree Sparrow are a darker brownish-pink than the bright pink legs of Field Sparrow. Chipping Sparrows head pattern is more striking than Field Sparrow’s, with a long whitish stripe above the eye and a crisp black line through the eye. The species’ bill is black in spring and summer and vaguely yellowy-pink with a black culmen the rest of the year. Swamp Sparrows lack the Field Sparrow’s white eyering and pink bill. Swamp Sparrows have obvious reddish-brown highlights in the wings and the underparts are a colder, grayer tone. Immature White-crowned Sparrows, despite their much larger size, are often mistaken for Field Sparrows due to their pink bills and head pattern, but their underparts are nearly entirely gray and their white wing bars more obvious.
Field Sparrows in the Great Plains tend to be larger, paler, and grayer than their brighter, browner counterparts in the East, although there is considerable overlap in both plumage and size. On Great Plains individuals, the only warm body coloration is restricted to the crown (but with a gray central crown stripe) and a bar at the shoulder. The back is brown with gray streaks.
Find This Bird
Field Sparrows are easiest to find in the early morning during spring and summer, when males give their long, “bouncing ball” songs from exposed perches. You can find these fairly common birds by searching areas of shrubby grasslands or overgrown, weedy fields. Males tend to sing from obvious perches such as fence lines and the tops of small trees. At other times of year, pay attention to flocks of sparrows in such habitats, looking for smaller, warm-colored birds foraging near the ground—bearing in mind that such flocks may contain multiple species of sparrows.