Sparrow Identification: Learn Streaked Sparrow ID

August 27, 2021

From afar, you see some fluttering in the bushes. What type of bird could it be? You might think it's just an ordinary sparrow, but there are several species that have particular distinctions between them. It can be challenging to separate these birds from each other. With the proper identification toolkit, you can start to spot the differences. 

Are you interested in discovering the birds in your backyard? BirdBot offers a few tips on how to identify and learn about those species in your community!

Species of Sparrows

Sparrow is the general term that many people give to tiny birds. However, 43 species of sparrows can be found in North America. While the name "sparrow" has been attached to any small brown bird, many sparrow species are known for their streaked backs. Along with their distinct plumage, these sparrows sing distinct songs and display unique behavior. If you are ready to identify some streaked sparrows in your yard, here are the five most common species found in North America. 

Fox Sparrow

You can find the Fox Sparrow in the northern parts of the United States. It is commonly found in shrubby mountains or scrubby forests. This bird species is often spotted by birders when they migrate. The Fox Sparrow is known for making a "double scratch" movement to find food. With this, the bird will hop back and forth to uncover food sources from fallen leaves and dense vegetation. In some cases, the Fox Sparrow might even look for a quick snack at a nearby bird feeder

When you look at the Fox Sparrow, it will have streaks on its sides and chest. Those streaks will have a thicker appearance than those found on other species. One distinctive feature is the song of the Fox Sparrow. When you hear it, this bird will delight you with a series of sliding whistles and beautiful musical notes. If you are looking to identify the Fox Sparrow, remember that these species will appear differently throughout North America. 

Related: How To Start Birding [Beginner's Guide & Tips]

Song Sparrow

You can easily hear the Song Sparrow from its delightful distinctive song. The song starts with a few clear notes, followed by trills, buzzes, and complex notes. These bird calls can be commonly heard in the spring and summer. If you are just starting to identify streaked sparrows, this is the perfect starter species. You can easily spot them. Once you have recognized these birds, it will be easy to contrast and compare other sparrows. 


The Song Sparrow has a long tail, and it is a medium-sized bird. On the chest, there are brown streaks with large spots in the middle. You will see two triangular brown stripes with a thin line behind the eyes and a whitish eyebrow when looking at the throat. Like the Fox Sparrow, these species can also have a varied appearance throughout North America. However, once you spot one, it will be easy to identify other streaked sparrows in your area.

Vesper Sparrow

Throughout the United States and Canada, you can find the Vesper Sparrow fluttering around fields and grasslands. You might hear the Vesper Sparrow singing in the evening and early morning hours. It is another bird that has a distinct song that starts with two clear, down-slurred notes. As the song progresses, you will notice a series of whistles and thrills. 

The Vesper Sparrow features a distinctive white eye ring. There are no other streak sparrows that have this trait. If you can catch this sparrow in flight, the long tail of the Vesper has a white outer tail feather, with an appearance similar to a junco. You can find these species fluttering around a cornfield. Many of these sparrows make their home in these spots during the summertime. 

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Savannah Sparrow

You can find the Savannah Sparrow throughout North America in those grassy habitats. When you look at the Savannah Sparrow, it is a similar size as the Song Sparrow. However, this species has a shorter tail that looks notched. In the front of its eyes, this bird features a splash of yellow. This streaked sparrow might even have a slight yellow behind and above the eyes. Like most sparrows, these yellow spots can be variable, depending on the location. 

Flushed Savannah Sparrows are bold creatures. They will fly up to higher ground and glare at their pursuer. That behavior is different from other types of sparrows that tend to take a head-first dive into the grassy vegetation. These sparrows don't have a lovely song like other types of streaked sparrows. Their song is a little more insect-like, consisting of short notes and long, high-pitched buzzes.

Lincoln's Sparrow

If you spot very distinctive markings on a sparrow, it might be a Lincoln's Sparrow. All of the markings on this sparrow are sharp, crisp, and fine. Lincoln's Sparrow might be one of the most beautiful streaked species. Along with the beautiful markings, the Lincoln's Sparrow has a buff color on the sides of the throat and chest. With those features, this bird sets itself apart from other streaked sparrows. 

You can find the Lincoln Sparrow in those boggy areas in the mountains and forested spots. However, since Lincoln's Sparrow migrates, it is possible to see this species in the western and southern parts of the United States. You will have to take a hard look to see this species since it mostly lives in dense vegetation. In addition to the beautiful plumage, Lincoln's Sparrow is the most musical bird of the streaked species. It has a wren-like song with a distinctive set of gurgles, buzzes, and trills. 

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With these tips, you can finally identify the five most common streaked sparrows in North America. However, there are even variations within particular sub-species. No matter what, take some time and get out to see those local sparrows in your community. Once you identify one class, it will be easier to distinguish other sparrows from each other. 

Do you love seeing those birds in the forests or in your backyard? You can discover more about these distinctive species with help from BirdBot!