EMBERIZIDAE of North America

The Emberizidae family includes buntings, juncos, New World sparrows, and towhees. The majority of these birds live in the New World where the family probably originated. They are small seed-eaters with a finch-like bill. In addition to seeds they also eat insects, especially when feeding their young. They build cup-shaped nests.



New World Sparrows

Order Passeriformes   Family Emberizidae

The sparrows on this page belong to the Emberizidae family. These sparrows are found in the New World. There are also birds called sparrows in the  Passeridae family.


Genus Aimophila

Sparrow, Oaxaca   Aimophila notosticta  Found: Mexico
The Oaxaca Sparrow is endemic to the Mexican state of Oaxaca, where it lives in dry forests and thornscrub.
Image by: 1) Dominic Sherony - Mexico


Sparrow, Rufous-crowned  Aimophila ruficeps  Found: North America
Rufous-crowned Sparrow has a brown back with darker streaks and gray underparts. The crown is rufous, and the face and supercilium are gray with a brown or rufous streak extending from each eye and a thick black malar streak.
Similar to: Rufous-winged Sparrow. Rufous-crowned Sparrow has gray bill; Rufous-winged Sparrow has yellow bill. Rufous-crowned has one stripe on lower face; Rufous-winged has 2 stripes.
Image by: 1) Francesco Veronesi - Texas  2) JN Stuart - Nevada  3) Bill Bouton - California


Sparrow, Rusty  Aimophila rufescens  Found: Mexico, Central America
The Rusty Sparrow has chestnut upperparts; grayish-brown breast; whitish belly; brown flanks; brown crown with narrow light median line; whitish supercilium; black eye-line; white throated edged with black;
Image by: 1, 2, 3) Jerry Oldenettel - Belize  



Genus Ammodramus
These birds are relatively small, with large bills, flat heads and short tails. They are usually found in grasslands or marshes and are often fairly inconspicuous.

Sparrow, Baird's  Ammodramus bairdii  Found: North America
Baird's Sparrow has brown upperparts; whitish underparts; spreaking on back, breast; flanks; yellowish face, nape, crown stripe; large bill; flat head.
Similar to: Grasshopper Sparrow. Viewed from the side these two species are quite similar, but the breast of a mature Baird's Sparrow has some stripes while a Grasshopper Sparrow's breast is plain.
Image by: 1) Dominic Sherony   2) Dan Licht, USFWS  3) Jerry Oldenettel - New Mexico


Sparrow, Grasshopper Ammodramus savannarum Found: North America
The Grasshopper Sparrow has upperparts streaked with brown, gray, black, white; dark brown crown with white narrow median stripe; light brown breast; white belly; brown face, tail; light eye-ring;
Similar to: Baird's Sparrow. Viewed from the side these two species are quite similar, but the breast of a mature Baird's Sparrow has some stripes while a Grasshopper Sparrow's breast is plain.
Image by: 1) Jerry Oldenettel - Texas  2) Dominic Sherony   3) Ken Schneider


Sparrow, Henslow's  Ammodramus henslowii  Found: North America
The Henslow's Sparrow has streaked brown upperparts with rust-colored wings; streaked light brown breast; whitish belly, throat; dark crown with white median stripe; olive face, neck; short dark forked tail.
Similar to: Le Conte's Sparrow. Henslow's Sparrow has olive neck; Le Conte's has lilac-gray neck.
Image by 1) Dominic Sherony  2) Janet and Phil - Illinois  3, 4) Ken Schneider 


Sparrow, Le Conte's  Ammodramus leconteii  Found: North America <
The Le Conte's Sparrow has a brownish and beige streaked back; dark crown with white median stripe; buffy yellow-orange face with gray cheeks; lilac-gray neck with chestnut streaks; orange yellow breast and flanks with dark brown streaks; gray bill; brownish-pink legs.
Similar to: Henslow's Sparrow. Henslow's Sparrow has olive neck; Le Conte's has lilac-gray neck.
Image by: 1, 4) Jerry Oldenettel - New Mexico  2) Laura Erickson  3) Sonny Cohen - Illinois 


Sparrow, Nelson's  Ammodramus nelsoni  Found: North America (Atlantic coast)
Adults have brownish upperparts with gray on the crown and nape, a cream-coloured breast with light or indistinct streaking and a white throat and belly; they have an orange face with grey cheeks and a short pointed tail.
Similar to: Saltmarsh Sparrow. Nelson's Sparrow has blurry stripes on breast; Saltmarsh Sparrow has distinct stripes on breast.
Similar to: Savannah Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow has a white crown stripe; Nelson's Sparrow does not.
Similar to: Seaside Sparrow. Seaside Sparrow has yellow in front of eye; Nelson's Sparrow does not.
Image by: 1) Bob Devlin - New Jersey   2) Dan Irizarry - Florida   3, 4) Jerry Oldenettel - Texas


Sparrow, Saltmarsh Ammodramus caudacutus  Found: North America (Atlantic coast)
Adults have brownish upperparts with gray on the crown and nape, a cream-coloured breast with dark streaks and a white throat and belly; they have an orange face with grey cheeks and a short pointed tail.
Similar to: Nelson's Sparrow. Nelson's Sparrow has blurry stripes on breast; Saltmarsh Sparrow has distinct stripes on breast.
Similar to: Savannah Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow has a white crown stripe; Saltmarsh Sparrow does not.
Similar to: Seaside Sparrow. Seaside Sparrow has yellow in front of eye; Saltmarsh Sparrow does not.
Image by: 1) Mark Tillett - Maryland  2) Wolfgang Wander - New York  3) Bob Devlin - New York   4) Joseph Pescatore


Sparrow, Seaside Ammodramus maritimus Found: North America
Adults have brownish upperparts with gray on the crown and nape, and a grayish buff colored breast with dark streaks; they have a dark face with grey cheeks, a white throat, and a short pointed tail. Birds show a small yellow streak just above the eye.
Similar to: Nelson's Sparrow, Saltmarsh Sparrow. Seaside Sparrow has yellow in front of eye; Nelson's and Saltmarsh do not.
Similar to: Savannah Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow has a white crown stripe; Seaside Sparrow does not.
Image by: 1)  David LaPuma - Florida  2) P. W. Sykes, USFWS   3) Joseph Pescatore - New Jersey   4) Jeff Whitlock - Texas  5) Dick Daniels - North Carolina 
1) Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus m. mirabilis)  2) Dusky Seaside Sparrow Ammodramus m. nigrescens. Now extinct.




Genus Amphispiza
These species frequently run on the ground with their tails cocked and sing from low branches.

Sparrow, Black-throated Amphispiza bilineata Found: southwestern USA and Mexico
The Black-throated Sparrow has gray upperparts; distinctive black and white head pattern; bold black throat; pale underparts.
Similar to: Five-striped Sparrow, Sage Sparrow. Black-throated Sparrow distinguished by its black throat.
Image by:  1) Alan D. Wilson - Visitor's Center, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California   2) Elaine R Wilson Visitor's Center, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California   3, 4) Dick Daniels - Arizona  5) Charlie Westerinen - "Hole in the Wall ", Utah  6) Kevin Cole



Sparrow, Five-striped   Amphispiza quinquestriata   Found: Southwest United States, Mexico
The Five-striped Sparrow has a narrow white moustachial stripe with a wider black strip below. The throat has a white central stripe that may be hidden by the surrounding black stripes. It has a narrow white supercilium; black central spot on gray breast.
Similar to: Black-throated Sparrow. Black-throated Sparrow distinguished by its black throat.
Similar to: Sage Sparrow. Sage Sparrow has broad white throat; Five-striped Sparrow has little or no white on throat.
Image by: 1) Marcel Holyoak - Arizona  2) Dominic Sherony - Mexico


Sparrow, Sage  Amphispiza belli  Found: North America (southwest desert)
The Sage Sparrow Sage Sparrow has a buffy-brown back with muted stripes; gray-brown head; white eye-ring; white throat; white moustacial stripe; white underparts; dark spot on breast.
Similar to: Black-throated Sparrow. Black-throated Sparrow distinguished by its black throat.
Similar to: Five-striped Sparrow. Sage Sparrow has broad white throat; Five-striped Sparrow has little or no white on throat.
Image by: 1) Jamie Chevez    2) Bill Bouton - California   3) Julio Mulero    4) Dominic Sherony  5) Linda Tanner  6) Maggie Smith   7) Charlie Westerinen - Nevada
4) Subspecies nevadensis, the most common  




Genus Arremon

Finch, Chestnut-capped Brush-  Arremon brunneinucha  Found: Mexico to southeastern Peru
The Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch has olive upperparts; chestnut crown, nape; black mask, head sides, breast-band (may be lacking); white throat; white spots in center and each side of forehead; gray flanks; white center-breast, belly.
Similar to: Green-striped Brush-Finch. Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch has distinctive chestnut crown. Green-striped Brush-Finch has green stripe above the black mask. There is no geographic overlap with these species.
Image by: 1) Charles Sharp - Costa Rica  2) Amy McAndrews - Mexico


Finch, Green-striped Brush-   Arremon virenticeps  Found: Mexico
The Green-striped Brush-Finch has olive upperparts; chestnut crown, nape; black mask, head side); white throat; gray breast, flanks; white belly.
Similar to: Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch. Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch has distinctive chestnut crown. Green-striped Brush-Finch has green stripe above the black mask. There is no geographic overlap with these species.
Image by: 1) Dominic Sherony  2) birdinnet



Genus Arremonops
All species are found in Central America, Mexico, and/or northern South America. The Olive Sparrow reaches southern Texas.

Sparrow, Olive  Arremonops rufivirgatus  Found: southern Texas, Central America
Olive Sparrow is the only sparrow with an olive back. It has a prominent brown eye streak and a brown-striped crown, with a buffy breast, some white belly feathers, and a conical beak.
Image by: 1) Alan D. Wilson - Ramirez Ranch, Near Roma, Texas  2) Bill Bouton - Texas   3) Jerry Oldenettel - Texas



Genus Chondestes - 1 species

Sparrow, Lark Chondestes grammacus Found: North America, Europe
Lark Sparrow is distinctive. Adults have a typically sparrow-like dark-streaked brown back, and white underparts except for a dark central spot. The cheeks and crown sides are chestnut, with white eyebrow and crown stripes. The dark tail's corners are also white.
Image by: 1) Alan D. Wilson - Arizona  2) Len Blumin - California   3) Kat and Sam - Oregon  4) Teddy Llovet



Genus Melospiza
These are medium-sized sparrows with long tails, which are pumped in flight and held moderately high on perching. They occurs as a few individuals or solitary. They prefer brushy habitats, often near water.

Sparrow, Lincoln's  Melospiza lincolnii  Found: North America
Lincoln's Sparrow Lincoln's Sparrow has a thin gray crown stripe; thinly streaked light brown breast; white belly; brown eye-line, eye-ring,  Some have a dark breast spot.
Similar to: Song Sparrow. Lincoln's Sparrow tail is shorter than a Song Sparrow and is much more shy than a Song Sparrow.
Image by: 1) Brian McClure  2)  Ed Gaillard - New York City  3, 6) Bill Bouton - California   4)   Kelly Colgan Azar  5)  Linda Tanner - California   
1) Juvenile



Sparrow, Song Melospiza melodia Found: North America
The Song Sparrow is very varied, approximately 30 subspecies. It has thick dark streaks on breast; gray face, eye-line, eye-ring,  Some have a dark breast spot. They are named for the male's melodious singing which they often perform while conspicuosly perched.
Similar to: Lincoln's Sparrow. Lincoln's Sparrow tail is shorter than a Song Sparrow and is much more shy than a Song Sparrow.
Image by: 1) Brendan Lally  2) Len Blumin - California  3) Ingrid Taylar - California   4) Ken Schneider - Illinois  5)  Eugene Beckes  6, 7) Dick Daniels - North Carolina  8) Dick - Maine  9, 10) Dick - California
1) Aleutian 




Sparrow, Swamp  Melospiza georgiana  Found: North America 
Swamp Sparrrow have streaked rusty, buff and black upperparts with a gray breast, light belly and a white throat. The wings are strikingly rusty. Most males and a few females have a rust-colored caps. Their face is gray with a dark line through the eye. They have a short bill and fairly long legs.
Image by:1) Dick Daniels - the Washington National Zoo  2) Keenan Adams, USFWS   3) Ken Schneider - Illinios  4) Laura Gooch


Sparrow, Coastal Plain Swamp   Melospiza georgiana  Found: North America 
Image by: 1) Dick Daniels - the Washington National Zoo  2) Pauls95Blazer
This is a subspecies of the Swamp Sparrow that lives in saltwater marshes along the milddle Atlantic states.



Genus Passerculus - 1 species

Sparrow, Savannah Passerculus sandwichensis Found: North America and South America
The Savannah Sparrow has many variations. They all have a narrow whitish crown stripe and a white throat. Most have a yellow stripe above and in front of the eye.
Similar to: Nelson's Sparrow, Saltmarsh Sparrow, Seaside Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow has a white crown stripe; these other sparrows do not.
Similar to: Vesper Sparrow. Vesper Sparrow has white eye-ring; Savannah Sparrow does not.
Image by: 1) Ken Schneider - Illinois   2)   Len Blumin - California  3) Elaine R. Wilson - California   4) Mdf - Ontario   5) Donna Dewhurst,USFWS - Alaska    6)  Mike Baird - California   7) Dick Daniels - Assateague, Virginia  8) Dick - North Carolina  9) Matt Tillett - Delaware   10, 11) John B. - Rhode Island (Ipswich)  12) USFWS - California (Belding's) 
9, 10) Ipswich Savannah Sparrow  11) Belding's Savannah Sparrow




Genus Passerella - 1 species

Sparrow, Fox Passerella iliaca  Found: North America 
Fox Sparrows are amongst the largest sparrows, heavily spotted and streaked underneath. All feature a messy central breast spot though it is less noticeable on the thick billed and slate-colored varieties. Plumage varies markedly from one group to another.
Image by:    1) Alan D. Wilson - Black Creek, Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia  4) Stubblefield Photography     2) Elaine R. Wilson  - Black Creek, British Columbia     3) Mdf - Whitby, Ontario, Canada



Genus Peucaea
These sparrows were formerly in genus Aimophila

Sparrow, Bachman's    Peucaea aestivalis  (formerly  Aimophila aestivalis) Found:Southeastern United States
The Bachman's Sparrow has brown upperparts; gray crown; black streaking on nape, back, primaries; gray face; rufous-brown eye-stripe; buff breast; white belly.
Similar to: Botteri's Sparrow. The range does not overlap.
Image by: 1, 2) Leppyone - Florida  3) Dan Irizarry  4) Daniel Berganza - Florida


Sparrow, Botteri's  Peucaea botterii  (formerly  Aimophila botterii ) Found: North America (the southwest)
The Botteri's Sparrow has streak brownish-gray upperparts; plain buff-gray underparts; pale supercilium.
Similar to: Bachman's Sparrow. The range does not overlap.
Similar to: Cassin's Sparrow. Botteri's Sparrow has irregular white around eye, Cassin's Sparrow has pale eye-ring.
Image by: 1) Alastair Rae  2, 3) Jerry Oldenettel - New Mexico 4) Marcel Holyoaks - Arizona


Sparrow, Cassin's   Peucaea cassinii  Found: North America
The Cassin's Sparrow has a brown upperparts, head, wings; buff supercilium; light brownish-gray bill; dark brown eyes; pale gray chin, throat, breast; whitish belly; some dark streaks on the lower flanks.
Similar to: Botteri's Sparrow. Botteri's Sparrow has irregular white around eye, Cassin's Sparrow has pale eye-ring.
Image by: 1) Jason Forbes - Colorado  2) Bill Bouton - Texas  3, 4) Dominic Sherony


Sparrow, Rufous-winged   Peucaea carpalis  (formerly  Aimophila carpalis ) Found: North America
The Rufous-winged Sparrow has a brown back with darker streaks; rusty wings, crown, supercilium; pale gray face, underparts; long brown tail; yellow conical bill.
Similar to: Rufous-crowned Sparrow. Rufous-crowned Sparrow has gray bill; Rufous-winged Sparrow has yellow bill. Rufous-crowned has one stripe on lower face; Rufous-winged has 2 stripes.
Image by: 1) Jerry Oldenettel - New Mexica  2) Dominic Sherony  3) Len Blumin - Pima County, Arizona



Genus Pooecete - 1 species

Sparrow, Vesper  Pooecetes gramineus  Found: North America
Vesper Sparrow has light brown upperparts with darker streaking; pale streaked breast, flanks; dark brown upper-tail; white under-tail; white eye-ring, throat, off-white belly.
Similar to: Savannah Sparrow. Vesper Sparrow has a white eye-ring; Savannah Sparrow does not..
Image by: 1) Seabamirum  2) Bill Bouton - California     3) Jerry Oldenettel - New Mexico  4) Ken Schneider - Illinois   5) Bob Pruner




Genus Spizella
These birds are fairly small and slim, with short bills, round heads and long wings. They are usually found in semi-open areas.

Sparrow, American Tree Spizella arborea   Found: North America
American Tree Sparrow has rusty back with lighter streaks; brown wings with 2 white wing-bars; rusty cap; gray face; rufous eye-line; gray underparts; light brown flanks; often dark spot in middle of breast; bicolored bill.
Similar to: Chipping Sparrow. American Tree Sparrow has bicolored bill; Chipping Sparrow has unicolor bill.
Similar to: Field Sparrow. American Tree Sparrow has bicolored bill; Field Sparrow has pink bill.
Image by:  1) Dominic Sherony   2) Mdf - Whitby, Ontario, Canada    3) Kelly Colgan Azar   4) Factumquintus - Whitby, Ontario, Canada


Sparrow, Black-chinned  Spizella atrogularis  Found: The Americas
Black-chinned Sparrow has gray head and underparts. The adult male has black around base of bill. Back is rusty brown with black smudges.
Image by: 1, 2, 4) Maggie Smith  3) J. N. Stuart - New Mexico
1, 2, 3) Male


Sparrow, Brewer's  Spizella breweri  Found: North America
Brewer's Sparrow has gray-brown back; brown wings, crown; pale eye-ring; pale gray underparts; notched tail; pale bill with dark tip.
Similar to: Clay-colored Sparrow.  Clay-colored Sparrow has faint crown stripe; Brewer's Sparrow lacks crown stripe.
Image by:  1) J. N. Stuart 2) Seabamirum  3, 4) Dick Daniels - Wyoming  


Sparrow, Chipping Spizella passerina Found: North America
The Chipping Sparrow has orangish-rust upperparts; gray underparts. Breeding Chipping Sparrow has red cap; bold white supercilium; black eye-line. Nonbreeding has brownish cap; dusky supercilium; dark eye-line.
Similar to: American Tree Sparrow. American Tree Sparrow has bicolored bill; Chipping Sparrow has unicolor bill.
Similar to: Field Sparrow. Chipping Sparrow has black eye-line, bold white supercilium; Field Sparrow has negligible eye-line and faint supercilium.
Image by: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) Dick Daniels - North Carolina   8) Dick - Wyoming



Sparrow, Clay-colored   Spizella pallida  Found: North America
The Clay-colored Sparrow has light brown upperparts with dark streaks on back; dark brown crown with light median stripe; white supercilium; light brown cheek patch; white throat; clay-colored underparts, notched tail.
Similar to: Brewer's Sparrow. Clay-colored Sparrow has faint crown stripe; Brewer's Sparrow lacks crown stripe.
Image by: 1, 5) goingslo  2) Andy Jones - Ohio  3, 4) David Mitchell 67) Shawn McCready 



Sparrow, Field   Spizella pusilla   Found: North America
The Field Sparrow has brown upperparts; white wing-bars; gray face; rusty crown; white eye-ring; faint supercilium; light brown breast; white belly; forked tail; pink bill.
Similar to: American Tree Sparrow. American Tree Sparrow has bicolored bill; Field Sparrow has pink bill.
Similar to: Chipping Sparrow. Chipping Sparrow has black eye-line, bold white supercilium; Field Sparrow has negligible eye-line and faint supercilium.
Image by:  1, 4) Ken Schneider - Illinois  2) bgv23  3) Kelly Colgan Azar



Genus Zonotrichia
Zonotrichia sparrows have relatively long, square-tipped tail and a slightly peaked crown.

Sparrow, Golden-crowned Zonotrichia atricapilla Found: North America
The breeding Golden-crowned Sparrow has streaked brown upperparts; black crown; golden forehead; light gray to brown underparts. Nonbreeding has brown crown; pale yellow forehead.
Similar to: White-crowned Sparrow. Golden-crowned Sparrow has yellow on head; White-crowned has no yellow on head.
Image by:  1 Alan Vernon   2) Alexandra MacKenzie  3) Lucina M    4) Rick Leche   5)  Gary Kramer   6) Dick Daniels - Hatcher Pass, Alaska 
1) Juvenile 3) Nonbreeding 4, 5, 6) Breeding



Sparrow,_Harris's  Zonotrichia querula  Found: North America
The breeding Harris's Sparrow has brown back with black steaking; 2 pale white wing-bars; white underparts with some black on upper breast; brown-and-black head, face, throat; pink bill,
Similar to: House Sparrow.  The House Sparrow has black or yellowish bill; Harris's Sparrow has a pink bill.   
Image by: 1) Norm Townsend   2) Jerry Oldenettel - New Mexico  3) Tom Smith - Oklahoma   4) Greg Schechter - California  5) Blake Maybank - California  6) Julio Mulero - California 
1) Juvenile  2) Nonbreeding  3) Eclipse  4, 5, 6) Breeding



Sparrow, Rufous-collared  Zonotrichia capensis  Found: North America (Mexico), South America 
The Rufous-collared Sparrow has black-streaked buff-brown upperparts; rufous collar; gray head with broad black crown stripes on either side of median; black eye-line, moustachial line; white underparts; stubby gray bill.
Similar to: White-throated Sparrow. The Rufous-collared Sparrow has rufous collar; White-throated Sparrow has no rufous collar.
Image by:  1) dFaulder at Costanera Sur Nature Reserve, Buenos Aires, Argentina    2) Dario Sanches - Brazil    3, 4) Dick Daniels - Boquette, Panama   5, 6, 7, 8) Dick Daniels - Quito, Ecuador 


Sparrow, White-crowned Zonotrichia leucophrys Found: North America
The White-crowned Sparrow has brown-streaked upperparts; brown wings; black and white streaks on head; gray face, underparts; pink or yellow bill.
Similar to: Golden-crowned Sparrow. Golden-crowned Sparrow has yellow on head; White-crowned has no yellow on head.
Similar to: White-throated Sparrow. The White-throated Sparrow has white throat; White-crowned Sparrow has gray throat.
Image by 1) Elaine R. Wilson - Near San Antonio, New Mexico   2) Alan D. Wilson - Near San Antonio, New Mexico  3, 4, 5, 6) Dick Daniels - Half Moon Bay, California 



Sparrow, White-throated Zonotrichia albicollis Found: North America
The White-throated Sparrow has brown upperparts; rufous wings with 2 white wing-bars; gray underparts; white throat; yellow lores; dark eyes; gray bill. One variation has black crown with white median stripe; white supercilium. Other variation has dark brown crown with tan median stripe; tan supercilium.
Similar to: Rufous-collared Sparrow. The Rufous-collared Sparrow has rufous collar; White-throated Sparrow has no rufous collar.
Similar to: White-crowned Sparrow. TThe White-throated Sparrow has white throat; White-crowned Sparrow has gray throat.
Image by: 1) Christopher Paquette  2) Cephas - Quebec  3) New Jersy Birds   4) Dick Daniels - Maine   5, 6) Becky Gregory- Virginia tan morph  7, 8, 9) Dick - Brookfield Gardens - South Carolina
6) Tan morph 







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