20 Types of Sparrows Found In Nevada! (ID GUIDE)

What kinds of sparrows can you find in Nevada?

Common Sparrows in Nevada

No matter where you live in Nevada, you are familiar with seeing sparrows. However, many people are surprised to discover the wide variety of species near them.

Below you’ll learn how to identify sparrows by sight or sound. Make sure to pay attention to the range maps to see which ones live near you!

20 types of sparrows in Nevada:

#1. House Sparrow

  • Passer domesticus

house sparrow

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Males have gray crowns, black bib, white cheeks, and chestnut on the sides of their faces and neck. Their backs are predominantly brown with black streaks.
  • Females are a dull brown color with streaks of black on their backs. Their underparts are light brown. This sparrow can be distinguished by the tan line that extends behind its eye.

House Sparrows are an invasive species (originally from the Middle East) and now one of the most abundant and widespread birds in Nevada (and the world)!

Range Map – House Sparrow

house sparrow range map

The House Sparrows compete with many native birds, such as bluebirds and Purple Martins, for nest cavities. Unfortunately, these invasive species tend to win more times than not.

In most urban and suburban areas it’s INCREDIBLY COMMON to see House Sparrows. They owe their success to their ability to adapt and live near humans. Unlike most other birds, they love grains and are commonly seen eating bread and popcorn at amusement parks, sporting events, etc. At your bird feeders, they especially love eating cracked corn, millet, and milo.

House Sparrows can be heard across the entire planet. In fact, pay attention the next time you’re watching the news in another country. Listen for a simple song that includes lots of “cheep” notes.

YouTube video

#2. Song Sparrow

  • Melospiza melodia

song sparrow

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Chest has brown streaks that converge onto a central breast spot.
  • On their head, look for a brown crown with a gray stripe down the middle and a gray eyebrow and gray cheek.
  • Back and body are mostly rust-brown with gray streaks throughout.

These birds can be incredibly difficult to identify due to their abundance and how similar they all tend to look. But luckily, Song Sparrows are one of the easier sparrow species to identify correctly.

Song Sparrow Range Map

song sparrow range map

Song sparrows are common in Nevada, especially in wet, shrubby, and open areas.

Unlike other birds that nest in trees, Song Sparrows primarily nest in weeds and grasses. However, you’ll often find them nesting directly on the ground.

My favorite feature of Song Sparrows is their beautiful songs that can be heard across the continent. The typical one, which you can listen to below, consists of three short notes followed by a pretty trill. The song varies depending on location and the individual bird.

YouTube video

#3. Vesper Sparrow

  • Pooecetes gramineus

vesper sparrow

Identifying Characteristics:

  • More round and chunky, small bill, and notched tail.
  • Both sexes have brown streaks all over, a white eye-ring, and white outer tail feathers.

Look for Vesper Sparrows in Nevada in open grassy areas, like prairies, pastures, sagebrush, and meadows. This sparrow prefers not to be in long grass or wet areas.

Vesper sparrows typically spend all their time running and hopping on the ground, foraging on seeds in the grass or weeds.

Vesper Sparrow Range Map

vesper sparrow range map

These birds also like to take dust baths to get clean.

You may see Vespers singing from fences, posts, shrubs at any time from morning until night. Listen below.

YouTube video

#4. White-crowned Sparrow

  • Zonotrichia leucophrys

White-crowned Sparrow pic

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Both sexes can be grayish or brownish with a long tail.
  • On their head, they can have black and white stripes or brown and tan. The head is peaked on the crown.
  • Bills are orangish-yellow or pinkish.

White-crowned Sparrows are found in shrubbery habitats with open grassy areas in the breeding season. In winter, they prefer weedy fields, thickets, and backyards.

White-crowned Sparrow Range Map

white crowned sparrow range map

If you want to attract these sparrows to your backyard, use sunflower seeds. Just make sure the food is placed on the ground, as they won’t fly up to feeders. and having a brush pile will entice them to stay.

White-crowned Sparrows are known for their long migration journeys. This sparrow has been known to travel over 300 miles in one night.

Males primarily sing, but females on occasion will too. Their song lasts only a few seconds. Listen below.

YouTube video

#5. Savannah Sparrow

  • Passerculus sandwichensis

savannah sparrow

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Both sexes have a plump body, brown feathers, and a super tiny and short tail.
  • Streaked with brown and white underparts with a yellow mark above the eye.

Savannah Sparrows are widespread across Nevada.

Look for them in dense grassy areas like meadows, pastures, grassy roadsides, and fields.

Savannah Sparrow Range Map

savannah sparrow range map

Unfortunately, this sparrow does not visit bird feeders. But you may spot one in your yard looking for cover in winter, especially if you live by a field or have a brush pile for them to hide inside.

Savannah’s Sparrows fly low to the ground and only for short distances. They are mostly seen walking on the ground foraging for insects and sometimes even running down their prey.

Males sing from perches like a fence. It starts with a few high-pitched notes, then a buzzy sound, and ends with a low trill. Listen below.

YouTube video

#6. Lincoln’s Sparrow

  • Melospiza lincolnii

lincoln's sparrow

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Medium-sized, small bill, raised crown feathers on top of the head.
  • Both sexes have a gray face with thin brown and black streaks.
  • Buff white breast with some light tan streaking.

Lincoln’s Sparrows are often found in wet meadows in summer, but they like pine-oak forests or tropical forests when they migrate south in winter.

These birds like to visit backyards that provide them with food and a place to hide like a brush pile. They’ll eat small seeds on the ground, like sunflower and millet, that have spilled out from your feeders.

Lincoln’s Sparrow Range Map

lincoln's sparrow range map

This species tends not to move while singing, so you should have time to spot one if you hear them first.

Lincoln’s are the most musical sparrow in Nevada. Listen below.

YouTube video

#7. Dark-eyed Junco

  • Junco hyemalis

Identifying characteristics:

  • Smooth and soft-looking slate gray with a white belly.
  • Small pale bill, long tail with white outer feathers.
  • Dark-eyed Juncos have various color patterns depending on the region. So one by you could look different than the pictures above.

Dark-eyed Juncos are one of the most common birds in Nevada. A recent estimate sets their population around 630 million.

You can easily identify these sparrows by how smooth their feathers look. It appears like they would be as soft as a chinchilla to touch.

Dark-eyed Junco Range Map

dark eyed junco range map

This species is found in pine and mixed-coniferous forests when they breed, but in winter, they are in fields, parks, woodlands, and backyards.

Dark-eyed Juncos like to visit feeders in the winter, but ONLY ON THE GROUND, where they consume fallen seeds.

Males sing a two-second loud musical trilling song that can carry over hundreds of feet away. In addition, both sexes also sing softer songs that are a mixture of warbles, trills, and whistles.

YouTube video

#8. Chipping Sparrow

  • Spizella passerina

chipping sparrow pic

Identifying characteristics:

  • Some are brightly colored with a rusty crown, grayish belly, and a black-streaked eyeline.
  • Others are paler with a brownish crown, grayish belly, and an unstreaked neck and belly.
  • Both sexes are slim with a long tail and medium-sized bill.

Chipping Sparrows are common across Nevada.

Luckily, they’re easy to identify, thanks to their rust-colored crown. You’ll often see them at backyard feeding stations, eating black oil sunflower seeds and other seed mixes on the ground.

Chipping Sparrow Range Map

chipping sparrow range map

Look for them in the woods by grassy meadows. These sparrows are also common in suburban areas!

Chipping Sparrows have loud, trilling songs among the most common sounds of spring woodlands and suburbs. Their songs are long trill notes that they repeat over and over, almost sound mechanical. Listen below!

YouTube video

#9. Fox Sparrows

  • Passerella iliaca

fox sparrow

Identifying characteristics:

  • Large, round-bodied, thick bills and medium-length tails.
  • Both sexes are typically reddish-brown (like a fox) on top and a mix of brown and gray on the head; the breast is speckled with brown and white on underparts and breast.
  • Bills can be yellowish or dark gray.

The coloration of this sparrow varies depending on its location. Types of Fox Sparrows include Red, Sooty, Thick-billed, and Slate-colored.

Fox Sparrows prefer to live in coniferous forests and thick scrubland when breeding. They rarely leave these covered areas in the forest until winter, when they visit backyard bird feeders to eat small seeds on the ground.

Fox Sparrow Range Map

fox sparrow range map

Fox Sparrows like to kick the leaves on the ground, searching for seeds and insects.

These birds are so protective of their nests that they release a loud chirp call note to pretend they are injured to lure potential predators, including humans, away from their nests.

Males and females both sing, but the females’ song is shorter and softer. Just like their color differences, the Fox Sparrows song varies depending on the region. Listen for a series of whistled notes.

YouTube video

#10. Grasshopper Sparrow

  • Ammodramus savannarum

grasshopper sparrow

Identifying characteristics:

  • Both sexes are brown and tan, with a flat head and small orange-yellow mark by their eye.
  • Thick neck, a long bill, and short tail.

Grasshopper Sparrows stay close to the ground because they typically prefer running or walking to flying. That’s why you’ll find them where it’s flat, such as grasslands, prairies, and open pastures.

While walking in fields, be on the lookout for Grasshopper Sparrow nests! They actually make their nests on the ground in thick patches of tall grass.

Grasshopper Sparrow Range Map

grasshopper sparrow range map

These sparrows get their name from grasshoppers being a huge part of their diet. To feed their babies, they will catch a grasshopper, shake it until its legs fall off, and then feed it to their young.

Grasshopper Sparrows are one of only a few sparrows in Nevada that sing two distinct songs. One is high-pitched, buzzy, and insect-like (featured below). The other is more musical and squeaky.

YouTube video

#11. American Tree Sparrow

  • Spizelloides arborea

american tree sparrow

Identifying characteristics:

  • Both sexes are rusty colored on their round head. Their face is gray with a brown streak by their eyes.
  • The body is gray with reddish-brown, white, and black streaks.
  • They have plump bodies because of their fluffy feathers and long tail.

You will often see American Tree Sparrows in small flocks, hopping on the ground, looking for seeds in the grass or weeds.

American Tree Sparrow Range Map

american tree sparrow range map

In the winter, this species likes to visit backyard feeders searching for small seeds, like millet, that have fallen to the ground. Millet comes in most birdseed mixes, and many birds don’t eat it. So American Tree Sparrows are nice to have around because they’ll help clean up your feeding area.

American Tree Sparrows eat a lot! In fact, they have to take in 30% of their body weight in food and water each day. Unfortunately, that means going a day without eating is usually a death sentence for them.

Their song is a series of clear opening notes followed by a variably trilled melody.

YouTube video

#12. Black-throated Sparrow

  • Amphispiza bilineata

black throated sparrow

Identifying characteristics:

  • Both sexes are similar. Grayish brown upperparts, white underparts, and a black-like bib on their chest.
  • Head has a dark gray cap, white stripe on the cheeks and above the eyes.
  • Long rounded tipped tail edged with white.

Black-throated Sparrows have arguably the most striking appearance of any sparrow in Nevada! Look for them in dry scrubby areas and canyons.

Black-throated Sparrow Range Map

black throated sparrow range map

Typically, these sparrows hop around on the ground to eat seeds and insects. But, if you’re lucky, they sometimes visit backyard feeders to munch on black oil sunflower seeds.

These sparrows don’t put up with birds coming into their territory during the breeding season. Instead, they fluff up their feathers, chirp, and chase the other birds away if they don’t leave. But after breeding season, they calm down and tolerate other species.

Black-throated Sparrows have a song with two clear notes followed by a buzzing trill. Listen below.

YouTube video

#13. Brewer’s Sparrow

  • Spizella breweri

brewer's sparrow

Identifying characteristics:

  • Very small, slim, and long, but size can vary from region.
  • Both sexes are short rounded wings streaked with brown, black, and white.
  • Grayish-brown, grayish underparts, grayish-white neck, light gray stripe over the eye with a dark eye-line.

The Brewer’s Sparrow is the smallest sparrow in Nevada!

This bird prefers not to live in trees but rather in sagebrush, abundant in arid environments.

Some individuals live in high elevations. Interestingly, these birds are considered a separate subspecies known as the Timberline Sparrow (Spizella breweri taverneri) and look slightly. Their bills and upperparts are darker and the breast and face also have more contrasting colors.

Brewer’s Sparrow Range Map

brewer's sparrow range map

Brewer’s Sparrows can be hard to identify because they look so “boring.Nothing stands out about them, and they are often called the “bird without a field mark.”

Males sing on high protruding perches to attract a mate and declare and defend their breeding territory. Their songs are long dry, trilling notes. Personally, I think their singing is so long and complex that it sounds like they should stop to take a breath.

YouTube video

The funny thing is once these sparrows find their mate, they start singing shorter versions of those songs. I guess they think they don’t need to work as hard anymore. ; )

#14. Green-tailed Towhee

  • Pipilo chlorurus

green tailed towhee

Identifying characteristics:

  • Both sexes are small and stocky with big heads and long tails.
  • Oddly colored sparrow with gray body, rust orange crown, white throat, black mark by bill, olive-yellowish on wings, back, and tail.

Green-tailed Towhees prefer to live in shrubbery forests, giving them the best place to forage on the ground and be protected. They are hard to see in the dense foliage, but males can be found singing from the tops of shrubs.

Green-tailed Towhee Range Map

greentailed towhee range map

Like many other sparrows in Nevada, they use a scratch technique to search for food.

That’s where they hop forward and quickly hop backward again, overturning the fallen leaves to peck any seeds or small insects.

Green-tailed Towhees work hard to build their nest, but sometimes they use porcupine hairs inside the nests for added support, which is surprising and seems dangerous for the babies.

Only the males sing songs that are a few seconds long, with a mix of jumbled whistles and trill notes.

YouTube video

#15. Lark Sparrow

  • Chondestes grammacus

lark sparrow

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Large and long-bodied. Look for white tips on their tail.
  • Both sexes have a striking head pattern with white and black streaks and a brown patch on the cheek. White, pale stripe over the eye.
  • Their distinct blocky face pattern sets them apart from other sparrows.

Lark Sparrows breed in Nevada in open grasslands with scattered forests nearby, like open woodlands and orchards.

Lark Sparrow Range Map

lark sparrow range map

The males put on a good show to find a mate. He does this by hopping in a line, then tipping his tail up and spreading his tail feathers with his wings drooped to the ground, showing off for the female. Once a female is impressed, he’ll present her with a twig before copulation (mating.)

Lark Sparrows visit backyard feeders to eat seeds, mainly in the winter and only on the ground. In the summer, they eat mostly insects.

Males sing a song starting will a buzz, followed by a few clear notes, and ending with a trill note. Their song is very different from other sparrows in Nevada. Listen below.

YouTube video

#16. Rufous-crowned Sparrow

  • Aimophila ruficeps

Rufous crowned sparrow

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Larger sparrow, with a round head and long tail.
  • Both sexes are grayish with streaks on their back, and reddish-brown crowns. Dark stripes line the sides of the throat. A white ring circles the eyes.

You’ll find the Rufous-crowned Sparrow in dry open hillsides covered with grass, rocks, and shrubs. They avoid areas with dense shrubs.

This species is the only native sparrow in Nevada that doesn’t migrate.

Rufous-crowned Sparrow Range Map

rufous crowned sparrow range map

Rufous-crowned Sparrows spend much of their time walking or running between shrubs and grasses even though they can fly (although not well). They like being on the ground for shade and protection from predators. They are rarely seen, but you may sneak a peek as a male sings from a shrub or low tree.

Females will leave their nest if there is a predator nearby and act like it has a broken wing while running along the ground to distract it from their nest.

Males sing two different songs. One is bubbly with a mixed slur, chips, and chatters, and the other is shorter and simpler but long trill.

YouTube video

#17. Sagebrush Sparrow

  • Artemisiospiza nevadensis

sagebrush sparrow

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Both sexes are medium-sized sparrows with a round head, short and thick bill, and a long tail.
  • White underparts, gray head with a dark stripe on the throat, dark spot on the breast, and dark tail with light edges.

The Sagebrush Sparrow, like their name suggests, prefers sagebrush habitats. But they also can be found in brushy areas of saltbush or other low shrubs in the dry interior west.

Sagebrush Sparrows hold some of the largest territories of all the sparrows in Nevada.

Sagebrush Sparrow Range Map

sagebrush sparrow range map

These sparrows can be hard to find because they like to hide in shrubs, but you may get lucky and see a male in the early morning of breeding season perched on a tall shrub singing for a mate.

This bird enjoys foraging on the ground and prefers running to fly to shrubbery or cover.

Only males sing, and their songs are a series of several trills lasting for a couple of seconds. Listen below.

YouTube video

#18. Golden-crowned Sparrow

  • Zonotrichia atricapilla
    Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)
  • Large, plump sparrows with long tails and grayish bills.
  • Their bodies are streaked brown above and smooth gray below.
  • They have distinctive black caps with golden or yellow crown patches.

These sparrows are known in Nevada for their beautiful, mournful song.

During the Klondike Gold Rush, miners often thought the song sounded a bit like “no-gold-here” or “I’m so tired,” earning the bird the nickname “Weary Willie.”

Today, some people find that their song sounds like “Oh dear me,” with an added trill at the end. While they usually hang out in dense brushy habitats, the males like an audience while singing and can be spotted whistling on treetops, rooftops, or the edges and tops of thickets.

Golden-crowned Sparrow Range
Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Golden-crowned Sparrows disappear into the northern tundra and shrublands during the winter but spend their summers in weedy and shrubby lowlands and along city edges. This vanishing act means that they’re one of our least-known songbirds.

Thankfully, if you’d like to hear their song, they’re relatively easy to attract to feeders and gardens. These small birds will eat fruits, seeds, flowers, and buds.

Their characteristic black crown present on breeding adults helps set them apart from other sparrows. They put it to good use, too. You may see them raise their crown and run at each other or other birds as they squabble over food.

YouTube video

#19. Black-chinned Sparrow

  • Spizella atrogularis
Black-Chinned Sparrows
ALAN SCHMIERER, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • They’re small, long-tailed sparrows with conical, pink bills.
  • Their plumage is gray with brown wings.
  • Adult males have black face markings and throat patches.

These reclusive sparrows spend their time in Nevada tucked away in rugged habitats.

They can be tough to find, but the black chins that the males sport help set them apart from other sparrows. The males look a bit like their faces are covered in soot!

Black-Chinned Sparrow Range Map
Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re ever hiking in rocky or rugged hillsides and hear what sounds like a ping-pong ball being dropped, you know a Black-chinned Sparrow must be nearby!

Glance around, and you may spot one of the males boldly singing from an exposed perch. They don’t stay out in the open for long, though!

YouTube video

Outside the breeding season, they often move to lower elevations and spend their time foraging in chaparral or desert scrub. You might catch a glimpse of them during this season, but you’ll have to be alert. They quickly hop between shrubs rather than foraging in the open.

#20. Abert’s Towhee

  • Melozone aberti

Abert's Towhee (Melozone aberti)

  • Large sparrows with long tails and short, conical bills.
  • Their plumage is usually grayish-brown above and pinkish-brown below.
  • The bases of their bills are bordered with black, and they have rusty patches under their tails.

Abert’s Towhees are a large ground-dwelling sparrow found in desert areas in Nevada. They spend most of their time in cottonwood-willow forests and mesquite woodlands, usually close to rivers and streams. While they may seem dull, their grayish-brown coloration helps them disappear in the arid habitat. 

Albert's Towhee Range Map
Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Abert’s Towhees are rarely seen in the trees. They spend most of their time scratching around on the forest floor, looking for insects, though they also eat some seeds.

Abert’s Towhees are true lovebirds that usually form strong, pair bonds that last their lifetime.

These pair bonds are critical to success in their challenging habitat. Pairs take advantage of the desert’s unpredictable rains, nesting whenever they know there will be a flush of insect activity and fresh plant life.

Pairs will sometimes sing together, delivering a “squeal duet” comprised of a jumble of scratchy notes. Males also have a simple solo song that’s made up of a series of ringing peep notes.

YouTube video

Do you need additional help identifying sparrows?

Try this field guide!

Which of these sparrows have you seen before in Nevada?

Leave a comment below!

To learn more about birds that live near you, check out these other guides!

The range maps below were generously shared with permission from The Birds of the World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site often to learn new information about birds.

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