Song Sparrows often have a dark spot in the center of their streaked breast. This is a good clue that you may have a Song Sparrow, but other species can show this mark, too – and it can be missing in some Song Sparrows, such as in the Pacific Northwest. To distinguish Song Sparrow from Savannah Sparrow look for the Savannah's yellow tinge between the eyes and bill, the shorter, notched tail, and the typically paler plumage. Lincoln's Sparrows have darker gray eyestripes, buff stripes on the sides of the throat, a buffy upper breast, and finer, crisper streaks overall. Fox Sparrows are larger and usually redder overall than Song Sparrows. The pale Vesper Sparrow has a white eye-ring, white outer tail feathers, and a small rufous patch at the bend of the wing.
Scientists recognize 24 subspecies of Song Sparrows and have described some 52 forms: they are one of the most regionally variable birds in North America. In general, coastal and northern birds are darker and streakier, with southern and desert birds wearing paler plumages.
Find This Bird
In spring and summer, Song Sparrows are one of the most conspicuous of all sparrows. Males sing often, perching around eye level on exposed branches. Also watch for Song Sparrows moving along wetland edges, ducking into dense, low vegetation after short bursts of their distinctive, tail-pumping flight.