Song Sparrows live closer to dense cover than Savannah Sparrows; they are longer-tailed and darker with broad, blurry streaks on the flanks, and they lack yellow in front of the eye. Vesper Sparrows have pale eyerings and long tails with white outer margins that are obvious in flight. White-throated Sparrows rarely venture far from the woods; they are more boldly patterned than Savannah Sparrows with black-and-white striped heads and smoother gray underparts. American Pipits are not sparrows, and you can tell this from their longer, thinner bills. They are also larger and bob their tails while walking. Within their ranges, any of the longspur species can occur alongside Savannah Sparrows, but they tend to be in large, tight flocks and always give lots of sharp, chattering calls when flushed.
The many subspecies of Savannah Sparrow can range from pale gray-brown to rusty overall. “Ipswich” Savannah Sparrows, which breed on islands in maritime Canada and winter along the East Coast, are large and pale gray-brown overall. “Belding’s” Savannah Sparrows from saltmarshes of Southern California and Mexico are very dark brown, almost blackish. The range-restricted “Large-billed” Savannah Sparrow of Mexico barely enters the United States in southern California; it has a much heavier bill than other forms of the species. All subspecies show thin, crisp streaking on the underparts and usually have yellow in front of the eye.
Savannah Sparrows are not feeder birds, though they may come to backyards that adjoin fields. But if you keep a brush pile on your property, you might see them swoop in and take cover during migration or over the winter.
Find This Bird
Savannah Sparrows are inconspicuous birds with high, thin voices—but they’re common and widespread. Look for them in grassy areas within their range, the thicker the better. Males are conspicuous during breeding season, singing from perches like a fencepost or a lone shrub or tree on a grassland.