Living Bird Magazine
Lincoln's SparrowMelospiza lincolnii
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Passerellidae
The dainty Lincoln's Sparrow has a talent for concealing itself. It sneaks around the ground amid willow thickets in wet meadows, rarely straying from cover. When it decides to pop up and sing from a willow twig, its sweet, jumbling song is more fitting of a House Wren than a sparrow. Though its song might conceal its sparrowness, its plumage says otherwise. This sparrow looks as if it is wearing a finely tailored suit with a buffy mustachial stripe and delicate streaking down its buffy chest and sides.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Lincoln's Sparrows are secretive little sparrows, but they are not impossible to see. Listen for their wrenlike song in wet montane meadows from mid-May through mid-July in the mountainous regions of the West or in Alaska or Canada. They tend to sing in pines along the edges of meadows or in low willow thickets, so walk along edges listening for their bubbly song. They don't tend to move much while they are singing, so you'll have time to search for any that you hear. During migration and winter they are not as obvious, but a little bit of gentle pishing in sparrow-laden fields and shrubby areas might encourage one to peek out of a shrub, giving you just enough time to grab your binoculars for a look. Sparrows tend to pass through in mixed flocks, during migration, so those first few weeks are a great time to check brushy fields for Lincoln's Sparrows.
- Gorrión de Lincoln (Spanish)
- Bruant de Lincoln (French)
Birdscaping your yard to include brush piles and other bird friendly features can provide spots for them to forage and take refuge during migration and the winter. Learn more about birdscaping at Habitat Network.
- Cool Facts
- Sometimes, singing a beautiful song might not be enough to win over a female. In a laboratory study, female Lincoln's Sparrows were more attracted to males that sang during colder mornings more than those singing during warmer mornings. This may be because males singing in the cold showed off more than just their song; singing in the cold requires more energy and could mean that males singing in the cold would make better mates.
- John James Audubon named the Lincoln's Sparrow after his travel companion Thomas Lincoln, who accompanied him on an expedition to the coast of Labrador. The expedition found the sparrow in a valley in Natashquan, Quebec, and Mr. Lincoln was the only person who managed to bring back a specimen for study.
- 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.
- The oldest recorded Lincoln's Sparrow was a male, and at least 7 years, 11 months old when he was recaptured and released during banding operations in Colorado on 2002. He had been banded in the same state in 1995.