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Lincoln's Sparrow

Melospiza lincolnii ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: EMBERIZIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

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.

Songs

Lincoln's Sparrows are one of the most musical sparrows. Males sing a rich wrenlike song of trills, gurgles, and buzzes from exposed perches or tucked inside a shrub. Each song starts off with 2 or 3 bell-like notes before bursting into bubbly trills and gurgles that rapidly change pitch. The song ends with a thin slurred trill as if the bird is running out of steam or perhaps running back into the willow thicket to hide. Each song lasts for about 2 seconds.

Calls

Males and females give a high-pitched, insectlike zeet and a more aggressive sounding chip.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

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.

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.

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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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