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A Closer Look at Sparrows

The grassy, weedy fields around Greenwich Point in the fall are great places to look at sparrows. Nearly 20 different species of sparrows have been found in the park. Some people may think all sparrows look alike. It’s the reason birders sometimes call them LBJs, Little Brown Jobs. But when one begins to understand the nuances of the small songbirds in the family Emberizidae – with brown streaks, conical bills and a penchant for grass and shrubs – distinguishing the different species becomes a welcome challenge.

The most common year round resident is the Song Sparrow. Becoming familiar with the shape, behavior, and variable melodious songs of this bird provide a reference point for comparison. Medium-sized, stocky, with bold streaks and longish tail, the Song Sparrow is in the same genus as the Swamp Sparrow, which shares a similar shape and sometimes the same habitat, but the Swamp Sparrow is smaller with an unstreaked gray breast with buffy-rufous flanks, rufous wingsand prefers hiding in dense marsh.

The Savannah Sparrow can easily be confused with the Song, since both frequent open grass and are well streaked, but the Savannah’s short, notched (not round) tail, finer bill, and yellow wash at the lores (between the eye and beak) help identify this species.


If you would like to learn more, join one of the First Sunday Bird Walks that start near the main concession at 9AM on the first Sunday of each month. Bring your binoculars or ask for a loaner pair.

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Song Sparrow
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Swamp Sparrow
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Savannah Sparrow
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Tree Sparrow
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