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Lincoln's Sparrow

Melospiza lincolnii ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: EMBERIZIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A drab, but handsome bird of boggy areas, the Lincoln's Sparrow is best identified by the fine streaks on its buffy chest.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
5.1–5.9 in
13–15 cm
Weight
0.6–0.7 oz
17–19 g
Other Names
  • Bruant de Lincoln (French)
  • Sabanero de Lincoln, Gorriòn de Lincoln (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Lincoln's Sparrow shows less geographical variation in song than any other species in its genus, perhaps a result of high dispersal rates among juveniles.

Habitat


Scrub

Breeds in bogs, wet meadows, and riparian thickets, mostly in northern and montane areas. Winters in brushy areas, thickets, hedgerows, understory of open woodlands, forest edges, clearings, and scrubby areas.

Food


Insects

Throughout the breeding season, Lincoln’s Sparrows primarily eat arthropods including spiders and larvae and adult beetles, flies, butterflies, mayflies, and leafhoppers. During winter, their diet consists of small seeds and invertebrates. They occasionally visit feeders.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
3–5 eggs
Number of Broods
1-2 broods
Egg Length
0.7–0.9 in
1.8–2.2 cm
Egg Width
0.5–0.6 in
1.3–1.6 cm
Incubation Period
10–13 days
Nestling Period
10–11 days
Egg Description
Blue, green, pink, or white, variably spotted with brown.
Condition at Hatching
Weak, naked except for sparse dark-gray down.
Nest Description

Constructed solely by the female over 2–3 days, the nest is a cup of woven, dried sedges and grasses with a substantial inner lining of soft vegetation. When placed among a cluster of branches, the branches are not incorporated into the woven outer layer; the nest is instead sandwiched among the branches. If disturbed during nest construction, the female is quite likely to abandon her nest.

Nest Placement

Ground

Nests are usually placed near the base of roughly 2-foot tall willow shrubs or mountain birches surrounded by sedge, almost always on slightly raised ground within the shrub cover, less often in elevated branches.

Behavior


Ground Forager

Lincoln’s Sparrows spend most of their time on the ground walking and hopping as they search for food. They tend to forage by themselves or in very small numbers. Pairs are usually monogamous and defend their nests by giving a series of alarm calls or engage is various displays to distract intruders.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Lincoln's Sparrow populations seem to be stable or increasing except for declines in Quebec in the late twentieth century. This species seems vulnerable to livestock grazing or human disturbance in their subalpine wetland breeding habitat. Like virtually all migrant songbirds, Lincoln's Sparrows are vulnerable to collisions with structures such as TV towers and buildings. They have also shown sensitivity to herbicide application. According to NatureServe, breeding populations are of particular concern in Massachusetts.

Credits

  • Ammon, E. M. 1995. Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii). In The Birds of North America, No. 191 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

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