Bell's Sparrow Identification

The Four Keys to ID

  • Size & Shape

    Bell’s Sparrows are small songbirds—medium-sized for sparrows—with relatively long tails. The head is rounded and the bill is fairly short and thick.

    Relative Size

    About the size of a Chipping Sparrow; slightly smaller than a Golden-crowned Sparrow.

    Relative Sizesparrow or smallersparrow-sized or smaller
    Measurements
    • Both Sexes
      • Length: 4.7-5.9 in (12-15 cm)
      • Weight: 0.5-0.8 oz (15-22 g)

Regional Differences

Bell’s Sparrow consists of four subspecies with somewhat distinct plumages. Two are noticeably dark gray on the head with nearly entirely dark tails and unstreaked backs: these are A. b. belli, which occurs mainly in coastal California sage; and A. b. clementeae, a federally threatened subspecies that occurs only on San Clemente Island. There are also two lighter forms: A. b. canescens, of the Mojave desert region, which closely resembles Sagebrush Sparrow; and A. b. cinerea, of Baja California, which has buffier face markings than the other three subspecies.