Lincoln’s Sparrow vs. Song Sparrow – PSU Fall Banding

Alex LamoreauxBanding, Identification, Science8 Comments

Blue-headed Vireo (Photo by Jean Miller)

Blue-headed Vireo (Photo by Jean Miller)

Overcast skies and a nice breeze made for a more relaxed morning of bird banding, but the flocks of White-throated Sparrows moving through kept us busy. In total we banded 2 Eastern Phoebes, 1 Blue-headed Vireo, 3 Gray Catbirds, 1 Eastern Towhee, 2 Song Sparrows, 1 Lincoln’s Sparrow, 38 White-throated Sparrows, 5 Northern Cardinals. We also had a number of recaptures including a Tufted Titmouse banded 10/8/13, Carolina Wren banded 10/7/12, Gray Catbird banded 10/15/13, Gray Catbird also banded 10/15/13, and a Song Sparrow banded 9/21/11. The wren had actually been first captured and banded at our Botanic Gardens site, but this morning we re-caught it a quarter mile away in Big Hollow.

The phoebes and vireo were special birds this morning, but a Lincoln’s Sparrow captured on the same net run as a Song Sparrow was a great opportunity to see the two species side-by-side! These sparrows are closely related and very similar in many respects. On closer inspection, however, they can easily be told apart from most angles. Jean and Craig Miller took a very nice collection of photos of the two species this morning that show these distinctive differences well.

Lincoln's Sparrow - Note the fine streaks over light tan on the bird's breast, but the very white belly. The face also shows distinctive features such as the bird's eyering, buffy-yellow malar streak, and thin gray crown stripe. (Photo by Jean Miller)

Lincoln’s Sparrow – Note the fine streaks over light tan on the bird’s breast, but the very white belly. The face also shows distinctive features such as the bird’s eyering, buffy-yellow malar streak, and broad gray supercilium flowing into a nice gray nape. (Photo by Jean Miller)

Lincoln's Sparrow - Note the fine streaks over light tan on the bird's breast, but the very white belly. The face also shows distinctive features such as the bird's eyering, buffy-yellow malar streak, and thin gray crown stripe. (Photo by Jean Miller)

Lincoln’s Sparrow – Note the fine streaks over light tan on the bird’s breast, but the very white belly. The face also shows distinctive features such as the bird’s eyering, buffy-yellow malar streak, and thin gray crown stripe. (Photo by Jean Miller)

Lincoln's Sparrows (left) are slightly smaller than Song Sparrows (right), and they have much finer streaks compared to the Song Sparrow's messy, smudged streaks. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Lincoln’s Sparrows (left) are slightly smaller than Song Sparrows (right), and they have much finer streaks compared to the Song Sparrow’s messy, smudged streaks. (Photo by Jean Miller)

Lincoln's Sparrow (left) and Song Sparrow (Photo by Jean Miller)

Lincoln’s Sparrow (left) and Song Sparrow (Photo by Jean Miller)

Lincoln's (left) and Song Sparrow tail comparision. The Lincoln's has a shorter, straight-edged tail and Song Sparrows have longer, rounded tails. Like the rest of the markings on a Lincoln's Sparrow, the uppertail coverts are also very fine and thin compared to the Song Sparrow. (Photo by Jean Miller)

Lincoln’s (left) and Song Sparrow tail comparision. The Lincoln’s has a shorter, straight-edged tail and Song Sparrows have longer, rounded tails. Like the rest of the markings on a Lincoln’s Sparrow, the uppertail coverts are also very crisp and thin compared to the Song Sparrow. (Photo by Jean Miller)

Lincoln's Sparrow (top), Song Sparrow (left), and White-throated Sparrow (Photo by Jean Miller)

Lincoln’s Sparrow (top), Song Sparrow (left), and White-throated Sparrow (Photo by Jean Miller)

Discussing sparrows and banding birds. (Photo by Jean Miller)

Discussing sparrows and banding birds. (Photo by Jean Miller)

For more Lincoln’s Sparrow identification tips, and lots more Lincoln’s Sparrow photos check out these other NemesisBird posts:

Lincoln’s Sparrow Bonanza – A photo gallery of Lincoln’s Sparrows

Beautifully Bland – Another photo study of Lincoln’s Sparrows with many other banding photos

Sparrow Shindig! – A nice comparison of fall sparrows by Anna Fasoli

Lincoln’s Sparrow – A short video clip of a Lincoln’s Sparrow by Drew Weber