40 Types of Sparrows in the United States! (2024)

What kinds of sparrows can you find in the United States?

Common Sparrows in United States

No matter where you live in the United States, 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!

40 types of sparrows in the United States:

#1. Song Sparrow

  • Melospiza melodia

Types of Sparrows that live in United States

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 the United States, 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

#2. Swamp Sparrow

  • Melospiza georgiana

Common United States Sparrows

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Medium size, plump, short conical bill, and long tail.
  • Both sexes have a gray face with a reddish cap, gray breast, gray throat, and a dark streak line behind the eye.
  • Reddish-brown wings.

Swamp Sparrows are seen in the United States primarily near water.

This species likes marshes with cattails or other tall reeds or grasses.

Swamp Sparrow Range Map

swamp sparrow range map

Look for them foraging and perching near the water’s edge, scratching up seeds and insects in brushy habitats. In winter, this species eats mostly seeds and plant matter. In spring and summer, they prefer insects. Their long legs allow them to wade in shallow water and catch prey.

These sparrows may visit your backyard to eat lilies or blueberries. Make sure you have some thick ground cover or brush piles for them to hide inside.

Males sing a simple slow trill from perches and can sing all day and even at night. Listen below.

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 the United States 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. White-throated Sparrow

  • Zonotrichia albicollis

white throated sparrow pic

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Both sexes’ colors can vary; some can be more grayish or tannish on their chunky body.
  • Head is typically black and white striped with a yellow spot between the eyes.
  • White throat patch, gray face, and small bill.

Look for these sparrows in the woods on the forest edge. They enjoy scratching at the ground under leaves or picking leaves up and moving them out of the way with their bill.

White-throated Sparrow Range Map

white throated sparrow range map

This species readily visits bird feeders, especially in winter. Feed them sunflower seeds or millet and make sure some of the food ends up on the ground, as they won’t fly up to feeders. Luckily, I see these birds often at my feeding station! And having a place for them to hide and find shelter will entice them to stay.

To attract them to your backyard, use black oil sunflower seeds and millet in the winter.

White-throated Sparrows sing a high-pitched whistle that is easy to learn. Just listen for “Oh-sweet-Canada-Canada.

YouTube video

#6. 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 the United States.

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

#7. 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 the United States. Listen below.

YouTube video

#8. Dark-eyed Junco

  • Junco hyemalis

  • 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 the United States. 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

#9. Chipping Sparrow

  • Spizella passerina

chipping sparrow pic

  • 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 the United States.

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

#10. Fox Sparrows

  • Passerella iliaca

fox sparrow

  • 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

#11. Grasshopper Sparrow

  • Ammodramus savannarum

grasshopper sparrow

  • 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 the United States that sing two distinct songs. One is high-pitched, buzzy, and insect-like (featured below). The other is more musical and squeaky.

YouTube video

#12. 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

#13. Bachman’s Sparrow

  • Peucaea aestivalis

bachman's sparrow pic

  • Both sexes are medium-sized, gray-brown with black and brown streaks on the back and wings, with a rounded tail and bill.
  • Gray face with rusty brown on top of the head and a stripe by eyes.
  • The breast is pale gray with a dark spot in the center and rusty brown on the sides.

Bachman’s Sparrows are found in meadows by pine forests in the southeastern United States. Surprisingly, we don’t know as much about this bird as we do other sparrow species.

These sparrows prefer to forage for food by walking or hopping to find grass seeds and insects. Interestingly, they are known actually to run more often than they fly. However, when they do fly, it is not pretty, as it looks like they’re struggling just to keep themselves up.

Bachman’s Sparrow Range Map

bachman's sparrow range map

This species is known to be quite smart. So smart that to escape predators, like hawks or snakes, they’ll go underground into burrows dug by other animals such as armadillos.

Bachman’s Sparrows populations are small and have been declining for the last 50 years.

But here’s the good news:

Conservation efforts are underway. The primary strategy is to use controlled burning every few years to thin the forest, which seems to be helping.

Their songs start with a long note followed by several rapid trill notes. Listen below.

YouTube video

#14. Black-throated Sparrow

  • Amphispiza bilineata

black throated sparrow

  • 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 the United States! 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

#15. Brewer’s Sparrow

  • Spizella breweri

brewer's sparrow

  • 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 the United States!

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. ; )

#16. Clay-colored Sparrow

  • Spizella pallida

clay colored sparrow

  • Petite and slender body with a small bill and long notched tail.
  • Both sexes are light tannish on top.
  • Grayish bodies with multicolored faces, the crown is thinly streaked.

These sparrows prefer to live in the United States in shrublands and thickets. However, some populations are located in Christmas tree farms and other grassy areas with short, scattered pine trees.

Clay-colored Sparrow Range Map

claycolored sparrow range map

Clay-colored Sparrows’ young leave their nest before they can fly. To get by, they hop on the ground for about a week, where the mother feeds them until they learn to fly.

Males sing to establish their territory, and they chooser lower perches when compared to most other sparrows in the United States. Listen for a short buzzy song lasting 2 to 8 seconds, which sounds more like an insect than a bird.

#17. Eastern Towhee

  • Pipilo erythrophthalmus

eastern towhee pic

  • Large sparrow with a chunky body, thicker triangular-shaped bill, and rounded tail.
  • Males are black on upperparts and breast, rusty color on sides, and white belly.
  • Females are warm brown on upperparts, light rusty color on sides, and white belly.

Eastern Towhees are one of the biggest sparrows in the United States.

Towhees like thick brush along the forest edge where they search for food on the ground under fallen leaves. They find their food by hopping backward and scratching the ground with their feet. 

Eastern Towhees Range Map

eastern towhee range map

You’ll often see these birds in your backyard if you have thick shrubbery or overgrown wooded areas. They’ll also sometimes visit bird feeders to eat seeds that have fallen to the ground.

Unfortunately, the Brown-headed Cowbird takes advantage of Eastern Towhee’s parenting skills. When female Cowbirds lay eggs, they’ll often find a Towhee nest and take out the Towhees egg and lay their egg inside. The Towhee sadly cannot tell the difference, so the female raises the Cowbirds young. In some areas, Cowbirds have laid their eggs in over half of the Towhee nests!

Males are the only ones to sing, but their songs have an easy mnemonic to help you remember their sound. Listen for a quick trill that sounds like “drink-your-tea!” Listen below.

YouTube video

#18. Green-tailed Towhee

  • Pipilo chlorurus

green tailed towhee

  • 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 the United States, 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

#19. Harris’s Sparrow

  • Zonotrichia querula

harris's sparrow

  • Large body, small head, medium-sized bill, and long tail.
  • Breeding adults are black and brown, with white upperparts.
  • Gray on the sides of the head, black on the crown, face, and throat.

This species is one of the largest sparrows in the United States.

Harris’s Sparrows like breeding areas with open tundra mixed with black spruce, alder, and white pine trees. They are the one songbird that breeds ONLY in Canada.

When they return to Canada, it’s too still cold to breed, and not much food available. So they seek crowberries which provide them with enough nourishment. They end up eating around 675 berries a day.

Harris’s Sparrow Range Map

harris's sparrow range map

In the winter, they migrate south and commonly visit bird feeders. They love visiting feeders filled with black oil sunflower seeds, millet, and cracked corn. Harris’s Sparrows also enjoy foraging near brush piles in backyards and using them for shelter.

The male Harris’s Sparrow sings more often than the female, and their songs are a few simple notes all in the same pitch. However, sometimes the song can be mixed with buzzy or hoarse notes as well.

YouTube video

#20. Henslow’s Sparrow

  • Centronyx henslowii

henslow's sparrow

  • Both sexes are large, with a flat head, large bill, and a short spiked tail.
  • Tan and buff, with brown, black, and white streaks on upperparts. Head is greenish-yellow with dark stripes on the side of their crown. They also have a yellow spot between the eye and bill.
  • The breast is white with black streaks and a short spiky tail.

Henslow’s Sparrows are very secretive. Look for them spending much of their day foraging in thick weedy fields or pastures foraging for food. In winter, they like to be near saltmarshes.

If bothered, they prefer to walk rather than fly away. Many times, you’ll see them running through the grass to flee a predator.

Henslow’s Sparrow Range Map

henslow's sparrow range map

Their songs are the shortest and simplest of all the sparrows in the United States.

Listen for a 2-second simple high whistle!

YouTube video

#21. Lark Bunting

  • Calamospiza melanocorys

lark bunting

  • Large sparrow that has a round-shaped and thick conical bill.
  • Males are black with a white patch on their wing and a bluish-gray bill.
  • Females and immature males are brown, black, and white speckled with thick light brown streaks on the breast and a pale white stripe over the eye.

Males are easy to identify because they’re almost all black, unlike any other sparrows in the United States.

Lark Buntings walk or hop while searching for food in open areas. But the interesting thing they will do is gallop on the ground when chasing a fast-running insect. Females were found to run faster than males. 🙂

Lark Bunting Range Map

lark bunting range map

Both sexes can be aggressive when other birds come into their territory. Males flick their wings, move their bodies, and ruffle their feathers. At the same time, females will chase other birds away from their nests.

Males can sing two different songs. First, pre-mate selection, they sing strong and loud trilling notes slowly which then speed up. Second, when the male finds a mate, he sings a much softer, sweeter, slower song from a perch or while flying.

YouTube video

#22. Lark Sparrow

  • Chondestes grammacus

lark sparrow

  • 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 the United States 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 the United States. Listen below.

YouTube video

#23. LeConte’s Sparrow

  • Ammospiza leconteii

leconte's sparrow

  • Both sexes are small and appear chunky.
  • Coloration is brownish-pumpkin orange, with a black eye-line that thickens as it goes to the back of the head.
  • Eyebrow is brighter orange than the face. Face and breast are creamy-white with a tiny gray bill.

LeConte’s prefer to walk or hop on dense grasses in open marshy or boggy meadows. They would rather run if frightened because their flying is fairly weak!

LeConte’s Sparrow Range Map

leconte's sparrow range map

LeConte’s Sparrows spend most of their time hidden under shrubbery on the ground, so they sort of act more like a mouse than a bird. It’s a shame because they’re one of the most beautiful sparrows in the United States.

Males like to sing from covered perches and sometimes will sing in flight. LISTEN BELOW!

YouTube video

#24. Nelson’s Sparrow

  • Ammospiza nelsoni

nelson's sparrow pic

  • Both sexes are medium-sized with a short conical bill and short tail.
  • Some are pale and orangish-looking, with gray on the nape and cheeks. Others have more contrasting, darker orange colors.

You will see the Nelson’s Sparrow in the United States breeding in wet meadows or freshwater wetlands with cattails and reeds. During winter, they migrate south to saltwater marshes. These birds are incredibly similar to Saltmarsh Sparrows and were actually considered the same species until 1989!

Look for them foraging on or near the ground or making short flights. They eat a wide variety of insects, including spiders, beetles, other arthropods.

Nelson’s Sparrow Range Map

nelson's sparrow range map

Nelson’s Sparrows frequently sing at night but will stop singing when another male approaches. They’re not territorial, but they might chase off other males when a female is present. They also follow females to ward off other males even when they’re not paired mates.

The male Nelson’s song is a high hissing sound, like a bird that lost its voice. Males and sometimes females sing to show their dominance, but they are not territorial. Listen below.

YouTube video

#25. Rufous-crowned Sparrow

  • Aimophila ruficeps

Rufous crowned sparrow

  • 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 the United States 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

#26. Sagebrush Sparrow

  • Artemisiospiza nevadensis

sagebrush sparrow

  • 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 the United States.

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

#27. Saltmarsh Sparrow

  • Ammospiza caudacuta

saltmarsh sparrow

  • Smaller sparrow, with a round belly, flathead, long bill, and short, thin tail.
  • Both sexes have orange markings around their gray cheeks, a black stripe from the crown to the tip of their bill.

You need to be seaside to see the Saltmarsh Sparrow. As its name suggests, these sparrows are located in and restricted to the salt marshes of the United States.

Saltmarsh Sparrow Range Map

saltmarsh sparrow range map

Saltmarsh Sparrows search for insects or seeds during low tide from marsh plants in vegetation or muddy openings on the ground.

Females build the nest only a few feet off the ground with a thatch that serves as a lid to protect the eggs from possible flooding. Saltmarsh Sparrows are careful where they build their nest because the high tide can wash it away.

The males sing only when females are around, and their songs are call notes that sound broken and insect-like. Listen below.

#28. Seaside Sparrow

  • Ammospiza maritima

seaside sparrow

  • Plump sparrow, with a long thin bill, long legs, and short wings.
  • Both sexes are primarily gray, with dark streaks below, yellowish marks on the wing, and yellow streaks by their eye.

It’s no surprise that the Seaside Sparrow is located by the sea in the United States!

Seaside Sparrow Range Map

seaside sparrow range map

Seaside Sparrows use their wings and tails to communicate with each other. They do this similar to the workers that signal planes into the tarmac.

Their long thin bills, long legs, and strong feet help them run and dig up insects and seeds from the marsh’s mud and thick vegetation.

Males sing a buzzy rising trill lasting only seconds. Listen below.

YouTube video

#29. Spotted Towhee

  • Pipilo maculatus

spotted towhee

  • Chunky body, short neck, and rounded tail.
  • Males are mostly black with white spots on the wings and a white belly with rusty-colored sides.
  • Females are similar-looking but are mostly grayish brown.

Spotted Towhees are often fleetingly seen while flying between patches of cover. You can also look for them hopping around fallen leaves, close to cover, foraging for food. They use the double scratch technique to find seeds and insects in the soil.

Spotted Towhee Range Map

spotted towhee range map

This species is found mainly in dense, shrubbery habitats near the ground, including forest edges, overgrown fields, and sometimes backyards. They like to eat seeds on the ground under feeders when they’re not too far from cover.

Some Spotted Towhees have a song mixed with buzzy notes and a trill, while others only have a trilling song. Listen below.

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#30. House Sparrow

  • Passer domesticus

Common Sparrows species in United States

  • 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 the United States (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.

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#31. Baird’s Sparrow

  • Centronyx bairdii
    A male Baird's Sparrow perches and sings for a female on the Colorado prairie.
  • Medium-sized chunky sparrows with short tails and heavy bills.
  • They have sandy brown plumage with neat black and chestnut streaks.
  • They have clean white bellies.

Baird’s Sparrow has a unique distinction for birders. It was the last new bird species described by John James Audubon!

You’ve probably heard their song if you’ve ever visited the northern Great Plains. The Baird’s Sparrow’s clear, tinkling song is one of the defining features of this area.

Baird's Sparrow Range Map
Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The orange indicates the Baird’s Sparrows’ breeding range, and the blue indicates their non-breeding range.

To find a Baird’s Sparrow in the United States, it’s best to visit tallgrass prairies and other grasslands. The males are the easiest to spot because they can’t resist a good view! You’ll probably see them singing while perched atop clumps of grass and shrubs.

Baird’s Sparrows spend much of their time on the ground feeding on seeds and insects. Don’t be surprised if they don’t take off as you approach. These sparrows often run from predators or avid birdwatchers rather than taking flight.

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#32. 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 the United States 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.

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#33. Field Sparrow

  • Spizella pusilla Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla)
  • Small, slender sparrows with rounded foreheads and pink, conical bills.
  • They have pale gray heads with rufous crowns and white eyerings.
  • Their backs are brown with black streaks. Undersides are gray with rufous highlights.

These sparrows are common in the United States in brushy, overgrown fields and weedy roadsides. Field Sparrows spend much of their time feeding on grass seeds and insects on the ground in these areas.

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

However, these warm-colored sparrows can be hard to pick out, especially in winter. During this season, they often form mixed-species flocks with White-throated and Song Sparrows, and you may see them all foraging together near the ground.

In spring, their songs are hard to miss.

The males sing vigorously from exposed perches, performing their long, “bouncing-ball” songs until they find a mate.

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Females often get an odd welcome from these unmated males. The male will often fly and strike a female that enters his territory, driving her to the ground.

This unusual welcome often establishes their relationship, and you can spot the pair searching for a nest site together afterward.

#34. Cassin’s Sparrow

  • Peucaea cassinii Cassin's Sparrow (Peucaea cassinii)
  • Fairly large sparrows with long tails, flat foreheads, and conical bills.
  • They’re usually reddish-brown or grayish with dark streaks on their upper bodies.
  • They have thin white eyerings with a dark line extending from each eye.

Cassin’s Sparrows are among the most difficult sparrows in the United States to find.

These secretive birds spend much of their time foraging along the ground and flutter away before we birders get a chance to spot and identify them.

Cassin's Sparrow Range Map
Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The best time to find them is in the spring and summer when the males put on a show that’s much more colorful than their plumage.

In a display birders sometimes call “skylarking,” males fly straight up to about 20 feet, occasionally up to 50 feet in the air, while quietly singing the first few notes of their song. From this height, they float down on stiff wings with a fanned tail and dangling legs while performing the rest of their alluring tune.

If you want to see a Cassin’s Sparrow display, you’ll need to head to where they live. You’ll find them in dry grasslands with scattered shrubs, cacti, or small trees. They tend to avoid areas of dense brush or agricultural cultivation.

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#35. 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 the United States 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!

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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.

#36. Canyon Towhee

  • Melozone fusca Canyon Towhee (Melozone fusca)
  • Large sparrows with long tails, chunky bodies, and rounded wings.
  • Their plumage is brownish overall with a warm, rufous spot under their tail, warm brown crowns, and light brown throats.
  • They have buffy eyerings.

Canyon Towhees are one of the most plain-looking sparrow species in the United States, making them a true challenge for birders to spot. But their drab plumage isn’t the only thing that makes these big sparrows challenging to find!

Canyon Towhees avoid suburban and human-altered habitats, preferring to spend their time in more remote areas. They’re fond of dense, scrubby areas and grasslands with scattered shrubs and rocky terrain.

Canyon Towhee Range Map
Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Canyon Towhees can be attracted to backyards with a bit of effort. If you’d like to have these visitors, use plenty of native grasses and shrubs in your landscaping. They also appreciate millet, sorghum, or black oil sunflower seeds if you spread them on the ground or use a platform feeder. 

Canyon Towhee’s songs have a lot more variation than their plumage. The males will give anything from a series of dull chips to more extended, cheerful jingles that sometimes sound a bit like titmouse songs.

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#37. 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 the United States. 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.

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#38. Yellow-eyed Junco

  • Junco phaeonotus Yellow-eyed Junco (Junco phaeonotus)
  • Medium-sized sparrows with rounded bodies, long tails, thick necks, and conical bills.
  • Their plumage is gray overall, with rusty backs and white outer tail feathers.
  • They have intensely bright yellow eyes.

The bright-eyed gleam of the Yellow-eyed Juncos sets them apart from other sparrows in the United States.

In the 1860s, native people of Veracruz, Mexico, believed that these birds collected sunlight in their eyes during the day and released it at night. Their name for Yellow-eyed Juncos meant “caster or fire” or “lightning birds.”

Yellow-eyed Junco Range Map
Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You may spot those bright eyes peering at you as you travel through pine or pine-oak forests or hear the tell-tale rustling of them scratching through the leaves for insects. They also drink sap from holes in ponderosa pine, Arizona walnut, and canyon grape made by sapsuckers.

You may also spot the males perched high atop conifers during the breeding season. They use these towering locations to perform their songs, which are made up of two or three trills, which are generally more clear, evenly pitched in the beginning, and buzzy or slurred at the end.

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#39. California Towhee

  • Melozone crissalis California Towhee (Melozone crissalis)
  • Large sparrows with thick bills and long tails.
  • Their plumage is grayish-brown or dark brown overall.
  • They have rusty patches under their tails, rusty coloring around their bills, and rusty eyerings.

California Towhees are among the most uniformly drab sparrows in the western United States but have managed to become a bit well-known anyway.

California Towhees have a quirky habit of challenging their reflections, so it’s not uncommon to have them tapping on your window or car mirror.

California Towhee Range Map
Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These common birds like scrubland or tangled chaparral habitat but are also quite common in neighborhoods, city parks, and suburban areas as long as there’s enough shrubby cover.

If you spend time watching California Towhees, you’ll notice they have a memorable way of foraging. They lunge forward, looking under leaves, and then quickly hop backward, scratching the ground with both feet while staying poised to grab any insect they unearth.

Despite their drab appearance, California Towhees have a pleasant little song. The males start with a few well-spaced, metallic chip notes, which accelerate into a short trill.

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#40. Botteri’s Sparrow

  • Peucaea botterii

    Botteri's Sparrow (Peucaea botterii)
    ALAN SCHMIERER, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Large sparrows with flat heads, long tails, and heavy bills.
  • Their plumage tends to be streaky gray-brown or reddish-brown above and cream or tan below.
  • They have brownish crowns, pale throats, and thin brown eyestripes.

Botteri’s Sparrows are difficult to find.

First, they have a very limited range in the United States, only being found in the very southern parts of Texas and Arizona. Second, they have an incredibly secretive nature. And lastly, they are well-camouflaged!

If you want to find a Botteri’s Sparrow, you’ll have to do some searching. They live in desert grasslands where their streaky brown, rust, and tan plumage helps them easily blend in.

Botteri's Sparrow Range Map
Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In spring, you may get a chance to see the males singing from high perches. The males’ songs typically comprise several high, thin, well-spaced notes, followed by an accelerated trill that sounds like a ping pong ball being dropped, followed by a few whistling notes.

Aside from these performances, Botteri’s Sparrows spend most of their time foraging on the ground, so be sure to look down if you’re searching for them! If disturbed, they flee quickly or freeze, relying on their plumage to hide them.

If you sneak through the grassland, you may also be able to locate them by sound. Both sexes make a quiet, high tsip call.

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Do you need additional help identifying sparrows?

Try this field guide!

Which of these sparrows have you seen before in the United States?

Leave a comment below!

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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  1. Thank you. What I thought was a sparrow turned out to be a female redwinged blackbird, but I found the page interesting and helpful in identifying some of the other birds I commonly see at my birdbath.

  2. We have an Eastern Towhee couple that show up under our feeders. I see the male much more than the female. Lots of Chipping Sparrows. We are on the Georgia coast many weekends. I plan to look out for the Seaside Sparrow on the marsh grass. I’m sure I’ve seen more of these sweet birds but my eye sight is not good enough to get the details. And occasionally I’ll spot the pretty Dark-eyed Junco this time of year.