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All 27 Sparrows in Georgia

sparrows in georgia
Seaside Sparrow: Photo by Evan Lipton

Introduction

Sparrows are some of our more common birds throughout Georgia. Their small, chunky bodies and distinctive conical bills make these birds easy to pick out. But which species are you seeing? Well, in this guide, we’ll go over all the sparrows in Georgia and hopefully will help you learn how to best discern between species. After reading this, you should be able to identify the sparrows you see in Georgia, whether in your backyard, in the park nearby, or in one of the state’s many nature reserves!

Sparrows in Georgia

Old World Sparrows in Georgia

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

  • Features: Ah, the House Sparrow. The only Old World Sparrow that has established itself in Georgia and the most widespread across the United States (and the world, probably). House Sparrows are brown on the back, starting from the nape, with a grey-ish crown. The throat and breast is black with a silvery cheek.
  • Habitat: House Sparrows are found, well, everywhere. Okay, not everywhere. They are ubiquitous in urban areas – cities, towns, parking lots, farms, you name it. They nest in any cavity they can find – in my parents’ hometown of Milledgeville, the local Kroger and Lowe’s both have House Sparrows nesting on their storefront letters!
  • Range: Within Georgia, any urban or suburban or domesticated area at all will have House Sparrows.
  • Voice: House Sparrows typically sing a straightforward melody consisting of a single cheep or chirrup note, sometimes repeated in a series. This vocalization is primarily performed by males, who persistently repeat it throughout much of the year to signal their ownership of a nest and to attract potential mates.

New World Sparrows in Georgia

Bachman’s Sparrow (Peucaea aestivalis)

  • Features: The Bachman’s Sparrow, with its brownish gray and rusty plumage, is characterized by a long, rounded tail and a sturdy, round bill. They typically do not form flocks nor do they join mixed-species flocks. Bachman’s Sparrows just think they’re too good for other sparrows, apparently.
  • Habitat: This species, found in pinewoods, can be observed hopping through open and grassy understories. However, when these areas become crowded with shrubs due to the absence of fire, the sparrows quickly move on.
  • Range: In Georgia, Bachman’s sparrows reside within upland pine woodlands and pine flatwoods, which means they are generally only found in the southern half of the state, below the fall line. They are otherwise fairly scarce in the northern part of the state.
  • Voice: Male Bachman’s Sparrows initiate their song with a prolonged, distinct, or slightly buzzing note, succeeded by a trill. Throughout the day, males sing from elevated perches above the ground. Additionally, when males are agitated, they produce a bubbling song characterized by slurs, whistles, and trills. Both males and females emit a thin, high-pitched tsew.

Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)

  • Features: The Grasshopper Sparrow is relatively small for a sparrow, featuring a distinctively compact body shape. It boasts a large, flat-crowned head with a noticeable bill and a very short tail. This bird is characterized by its brown and tan plumage adorned with light streaks. While the belly is white, the breast lacks streaks and appears buffy. Its back displays a mottled pattern of tan, black, and chestnut hues, with less prominent streaking compared to other sparrows. The face is relatively plain, accentuated by a conspicuous white eyering. Additionally, Grasshopper Sparrows often exhibit a yellow spot between the eye and bill (the lore), as well as on the bend of the wing.
  • Habitat: During the breeding season, this species can be found nesting in open grasslands, prairies, hayfields, and pastures, typically preferring areas with some exposed ground. Grasshopper Sparrows tend to avoid breeding in grasslands densely covered with shrubs, although they exhibit a greater tolerance for shrubs during migration and winter months.
  • Range: In Georgia, Grasshopper Sparrows can be found throughout the state, depending on the time of year. They are found in the northern-most parts of the state in the summer, in the southern half of the state in the winter and some can be found year-round in the gradient area between.
  • Voice: The typical song of the Grasshopper Sparrow is a slender, insect-like buzz, preceded by two to three ticking chips: tick tick pzzzzzzzz. Additionally, males occasionally deliver a squeaky, chirping song associated with flight display, although this behavior is less commonly witnessed. The primary call note is a high-pitched seet. Furthermore, when alarmed, they emit a series of staccato, two-parted tiddick notes.

Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus)

  • Features: Adults display a distinctive, blocky facial pattern distinguishing them from other sparrows. Their head features chestnut and white stripes, with a black mustache extending down the sides of the throat, and chestnut spots adorning the cheeks. Additionally, the outer tail feathers are capped with white tips, and a black spot marks the center of the chest. Juveniles exhibit a faint version of the adult’s facial pattern and prominent streaking on the breast and flanks.
  • Habitat: Encountered in grasslands, along roadsides, in farmlands, pastures, and open landscapes featuring scattered trees and shrubs.
  • Range: In Georgia, Lark Sparrows are something of a rarity. Occasionally breeding in the far northwest corner of the state, these birds are a real treat to find in Georgia!
  • Voice: Male Lark Sparrows produce a melodious medley of clear notes and trills, occasionally interrupted by harsh buzzes and churrs. Typically, the song commences with a brief buzz followed by 1–3 distinct notes, followed by a few lower-pitched notes, and concludes with a clear trill. They frequently vary the sequence of these notes. Pay attention to the short buzzes amidst the medley to aid in song identification. Look for them singing from elevated perches such as fence posts, shrubs, and telephone wires. Both male and female Lark Sparrows emit a sharp, metallic tink.

Lark Bunting(Calamospiza melanocorys)

  • Features: North America boasts numerous attractive sparrows, but Lark Buntings are among the most captivating. Breeding males showcase a velvety black plumage accented by snow-white wing coverts and delicate white edges on the innermost flight feathers (tertials). Females, juveniles, and non-breeding males exhibit a sandy brown hue, yet they also feature white accents in the wings, particularly noticeable during flight.
  • Habitat: Lark Buntings favor open, dry shortgrass prairies with little foliage.
  • Range: This species is even more rare in Georgia, only rare visitors venturing as far east as the Peach State. Be sure to get a photo or audio recording if you encounter a Lark Bunting in Georgia!
  • Voice: During spring and summer, male sparrows sing two songs: one slow and distinct, the other rapid and trilling. Initially, they sing an aggressive flight song upon arrival at breeding territories, then switch to a sweeter, faster song as pairs form. Common calls include a gentle hweee from both sexes and specific calls for nesting and feeding young.

Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)

  • Features: During the summer, Chipping Sparrows appear neat and sharp, featuring frosty underparts, a pale face, a black line extending through the eye, and a vibrant rusty crown. In winter, their appearance becomes more subdued, with buff-brown plumage and dark streaks on the upperparts. Despite the seasonal change, the black eye line remains visible, while the crown takes on a warmer yet muted reddish-brown hue.
  • Habitat: Search for Chipping Sparrows in open woodlands and forests featuring grassy clearings throughout North America. Additionally, they can be found in parks, along roadsides, and in backyard settings, especially where feeders and trees are present.
  • Range: Chipping Sparrows are perhaps Georgia’s most familiar sparrow species. They can be found easily throughout the state, often being more than happy to visit feeders stocked with seeds.
  • Voice: Male Chipping Sparrows sing a long, dry trill of evenly spaced chips, a common sound in open woods in spring. Their song, about 3.6 seconds long on average, consists of around 55 nearly identical chip notes. They use a single chip note to stay in contact and give a long zeeeee call when alarmed by a predator, such as a hawk. During courtship, females make a soft, rapid see-see-see-see call to attract mates.

Clay-colored Sparrow(Spizella pallida)

  • Features: Clay-colored Sparrows are small and slender, characterized by a petite bill, trim body, and relatively long, notched tail. Their distinctive petite and slender appearance is shared with other Spizella sparrows. These birds are predominantly pale, displaying hues of tan and gray with a notable facial pattern. A pale gray collar is a distinguishing feature year-round. The crown is finely streaked, with a pale stripe above the eye and a darker cheek. Notably, the dark eyeline does not extend in front of the eye.
  • Habitat: During the breeding season, you can find them nesting in shrublands, along field edges, and within thickets across the northern prairies. Towards the eastern boundary of their range, keep an eye out for them in Christmas tree farms and grassy areas with sparse, scattered conifers. In the winter months, they migrate to desert grasslands, upland plains, thorn scrub, fields, and brushy hillsides.
  • Range: Uncommon in the eastern United States, Clay-colored Sparrows are rare but occasional visitors to Georgia.
  • Voice: The male’s song consists of 2 to 8 low, drawn-out buzzes lasting around 2 seconds, resembling an insect’s sound. Simple tsip notes serve various communication purposes, including between mates, parents and offspring, and within flocks. When alarmed, this note becomes louder and sharper.

Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla)

  • Features: These birds exhibit warm hues, featuring a noticeable white eyering, a pink bill, and pale grayish underparts with subtle orangey accents. The head displays a pale gray coloration, highlighted by a vibrant rufous crown and a broad rufous line extending behind the eye. Soft orange-rufous lateral throat stripes border the whitish throat. Their back showcases a brown hue with black streaks, creating contrast against the gray rump and tail. Additionally, the wings display two faint wingbars.
  • Habitat: Field Sparrows are specialists in habitats known as “old-fields.” You can find them in areas with tall grass and brush that are transitioning into small trees and shrubs, especially thorny shrubs like roses and briars. My first field sparrow was found in a field of tall grass just by a recently cut forest in Baldwin County!
  • Range: These birds are found in the appropriate habitat throughout the state of Georgia.
  • Voice: The Field Sparrow’s primary song is a series of accelerating whistles leading to a rapid trill, lasting about 4 seconds, with males singing a more complex version for territorial interactions in the morning. Both males and females produce various calls, including a single-note seep while foraging and a higher-pitched version during courtship and nest building. A brooding female emits a low-pitched chirp when her mate approaches with food. They use a chip call in response to threats and a high, thin, whistled zeeeeee when reacting to hawks.

Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)

  • Features: While subject to considerable variation, Fox Sparrows typically show a rust-brown hue on their upperparts, with a combination of rust and gray adorning the head, and prominent brownish splotches on the flanks and central chest area. The bill may vary in coloration from yellowish to dark gray.
  • Habitat: During the breeding season, Fox Sparrows inhabit coniferous forests and dense mountain scrub. In winter, they frequent scrubby habitats and forests, often observed foraging under backyard bird feeders.
  • Range: Fox Sparrows are a common winter visitor in Georgia, but are less frequent in the southern parts of the state.
  • Voice: Male Fox Sparrows sing a sequence of about a dozen rich, whistled notes lasting 2–3 seconds, typically from a concealed perch near the top of trees during the breeding season. They sing vigorously throughout the summer, regardless of weather conditions. Northern and eastern populations usually sing one or two song types. Females occasionally sing a softer version of the male’s song. Additionally, Fox Sparrows use various calls, including smack calls during territorial disputes or nest threats, as well as chu-chu and sip calls.

American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea)

  • Features: In both male and female American Tree Sparrows, a rusty cap and rusty eyeline, rather than black, adorn a gray head, complemented by a streaked brown back and a smooth gray to buff breast, creating an overall impression of reddish-brown and gray. It’s common to observe a dark smudge in the center of the unstreaked breast. Compared to other sparrows, they have relatively small bills and long, thin tails.
  • Habitat: During winter, you can find small flocks of American Tree Sparrows in weedy fields with hedgerows or shrubs, along forest edges, or near marshes. They are also frequent visitors to backyards, particularly when seed feeders are available. American Tree Sparrows breed in the far north and are seldom observed south of northern Canada during the summer months.
  • Range: Rare visitors to Georgia, even during the winter, American Tree Sparrows are a special find in the Peach State!
  • Voice: Male American Tree Sparrows sing high, sweet whistled notes, lasting about 1–2 seconds, with varying patterns. Each male sings one of many shared dialects. Singing starts in late winter. When feeding, they emit a musical twitter, and when alarmed, a hard tseet; in flight, a softer tsiew. Females solicit copulation (tee-hee) with a whey-whey-whey call.

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

  • Features: Juncos display variation across regions, but generally, they are dark gray or brown birds with a splash of brightness from a pink bill and occasional flash of white in their outer tail feathers, particularly noticeable during flight.
  • Habitat: Breeding in coniferous or mixed-coniferous forests spanning Canada, the western U.S., and the Appalachians, Dark-eyed Juncos migrate to open woodlands, fields, parks, roadsides, and backyards during the winter months.
  • Range: During the winter, these birds are found all throughout the state.
  • Voice: Male Dark-eyed Juncos sing a musical trill, similar to the songs of Chipping Sparrows and Pine Warblers, audible from several hundred feet away. Both sexes also produce a quieter song resembling that of an American Goldfinch, consisting of whistles, trills, and warbles. Juncos emit a high, short chip note during flight and foraging, often in rapid succession to encourage others to follow. A sharp kew signal indicates aggression, prompting birds to separate, typically given by the dominant individual. Additionally, juncos may emit a high-speed twittering call during altercations or when startled.

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

  • Features: White-crowned Sparrows are large sparrows. At first glance, they may appear plain, with a pale-gray plumage. However, your attention is quickly captivated by the striking black-and-white stripes adorning the head, accompanied by a pale pink or yellow bill.
  • Habitat: Search for White-crowned Sparrows in areas where dense brush provides safe cover and is interspersed with open or grassy ground, ideal for foraging. Throughout much of the United States, these sparrows are most commonly spotted during winter.
  • Range: In Georgia, White-crowned Sparrows are fairly common throughout the state in the winter months.
  • Voice: The White-crowned Sparrow’s song is extensively studied, with distinct variations across subspecies characterized by a sweet, whistling introduction, followed by jumbled whistles and a concluding buzz or trill, lasting 2-3 seconds. Females rarely sing. They employ about 10 different calls, including a sharp, pink call, and a harsh, rasping call used during conflicts.

Harris’s Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula)

  • Features: Harris’s Sparrows display streaks of brown and black throughout their plumage, with distinct black markings on the bib, face, and crown. As they mature, the black areas surrounding the face transition from patchy in juveniles to fully black in adults. During the breeding season, adults develop gray cheeks and nape, whereas these areas are brown in nonbreeding individuals. Regardless of age or season, they feature a pink bill, white belly, and black streaks along the back.
  • Habitat: Harris’s Sparrows breed solely in northern Canada, inhabiting regions of open tundra interspersed with white pine, black spruce, larch, alder, and willow. During winter, they migrate to hedgerows, agricultural fields, shrubby pastures, backyards, and shrub-lined areas near streams within the southern Great Plains.
  • Range: In Georgia, Harris’s Sparrows are rare visitors throughout the state.
  • Voice: The Harris’s Sparrow sings a simple, plaintive whistle consisting of 1–3 evenly spaced notes, easily imitated due to its consistent pitch, with occasional buzzy, hoarse notes. Males typically sing from exposed perches within their territory, more frequently during morning and evening. They emit a loud tchip while foraging in flocks and connecting with each other, switching to a louder weenk when alarmed.

White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)

  • Features: White-throated Sparrows display a brown upper plumage and gray underparts, accentuated by a distinctive head pattern. Their black-and-white-striped head is complemented by a vibrant white throat and yellow markings between the eye and the gray bill. Additionally, there exists a less prominently marked variant referred to as “tan-striped,” featuring a buff-on-brown face pattern rather than the contrasting white-on-black.
  • Habitat: Search for White-throated Sparrows in wooded areas, along forest edges, in regrowth areas post-logging or forest fires, near pond and bog edges, and in copses near treelines. During winter, they frequent thickets, overgrown fields, parks, and suburban wooded areas, often visiting backyard feeders for birdseed.
  • Range: Common throughout Georgia in the winter time.
  • Voice: White-throated Sparrows sing a melodious whistle, often heard as “Oh-sweet-canada-canada” or “Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody,” lasting about 4 seconds. They vocalize frequently during breeding and winter. Their main call is a sharp chink, signaling agitation or alarm, with accompanying raised crown feathers and tail flicking. Additionally, they use a two-parted chip-up for aggression and a trill for courtship or aggression, with flock members communicating with a high, level seep.

Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus)

  • Features: Overall brown plumage adorned with distinct streaks characterizes the Vesper Sparrow. Notable features include a thin white eye ring, visible white outer tail feathers during flight, and a pale cheek patch. Vesper Sparrows also possess a distinctive but often inconspicuous chestnut patch on the shoulder.
  • Habitat: Encountered in open grassy habitats such as prairies, weedy fields, sagebrush steppe, meadows, pastures, and roadsides, the Vesper Sparrow typically steers clear of taller grass and wetter environments.
  • Range: Vesper Sparrows are winter visitors throughout most of Georgia.
  • Voice: Vesper Sparrows produce a distinctive song characterized by 1–4 downslurred whistles, followed by a rising and falling trill that culminates in a buzzy jumble. These birds are known for singing in the early morning and sometimes after sunset, typically from elevated perches like fences, wires, posts, and shrubs. Their call notes consist of a sharp chirp.

LeConte’s Sparrow (Ammospiza leconteii)

  • Features: Easily identifiable by its overall orange-buff coloration, especially prominent on the head and upper breast, this bird showcases black streaks on its back and wings and a grayish-purple spot on the nape. Its belly is white, and its bill appears gray in color.
  • Habitat: This bird is commonly found in open habitats, particularly marshy or boggy meadows characterized by dense growths of grasses or sedges.
  • Range: LeConte’s Sparrows are uncommon winter visitors to the south of Georgia, even more rare elsewhere in the state.
  • Voice: Male LeConte’s Sparrows emit a straightforward song comprising 2–3 thin chips succeeded by a brief trill. Their typical call is a sharp and shrill tsip.

Seaside Sparrow (Ammospiza maritima)

  • Features: With a dark grayish-brown upper plumage and paler underparts adorned with faint dark streaks, these sparrows feature a yellowish spot preceding the eye and a whitish throat marked by dark “moustache” lines on each side. The overall darkness or brightness of their plumage varies across subspecies.
  • Habitat: These birds inhabit saltmarshes, encompassing brackish marshes and, in the Everglades, freshwater marshes as well.
  • Range: In Georgia, you can find Seaside Sparrows, you guessed it, at the seaside. Along the entire Atlantic coast, these birds can be found in suitable habitat.
  • Voice: Male Seaside Sparrows sing a brief, buzzy trill akin to a muted Red-winged Blackbird’s song, sometimes echoed by females post-mating. During flight, males emit sputtering call notes transitioning into their regular song at the peak of flight. Their common calls include short, flat sounds like stip, tuk, tchi, and tseep, along with various chattering and whinnying calls heard during nesting.

Nelson’s Sparrow (Ammospiza nelsoni)

  • Features: A vibrantly colored sparrow adorned with a saffron-yellow eyebrow and whisker marks outlining a grayish cheek, Nelson’s Sparrow displays two distinct forms. The interior-breeding variant boasts a prominent yellow hue extending onto the throat, breast, and sides, complemented by streaking on the breast and flanks. In contrast, the coastal-breeding “Atlantic” form features a more subdued appearance, characterized by pale gray upper plumage, buff underparts, and minimal, faint breast streaking.
  • Habitat: The coastal variant, known as the “Atlantic” form, primarily nests in tidal marshes, encompassing both saltwater and brackish environments, with occasional occurrences in farm fields during wet years.
  • Range: During the non-breeding seasons, Nelson’s Sparrows can be found along the coast of Georgia.
  • Voice: Male Nelson’s Sparrows produce raspy sounds resembling bursts of steam, along with hissing buzzes or wheezy gasps, often heard at night. They also perform flight songs, ascending with tic calls, delivering the standard song at the peak of their flight, fluttering mid-air, and singing again during descent. Singing advertises dominance to both females and males, while females occasionally sing too. Their calls resemble the chip notes of Saltmarsh Sparrows, soft and sweet tic or tuc sounds, sometimes in series.

Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammospiza caudacta)

  • Features: Featuring a grayish upper plumage and pale underparts, this sparrow displays rusty wing coverts and vibrant orange-buff facial markings surrounding a grayish cheek. Black streaks accentuate the yellowish-washed breast and sides, while white stripes adorn the back. Their tails are short and appear spiked at the feather tips.
  • Habitat: Saltmarsh Sparrows exclusively inhabit – wait for it – tidal saltmarshes.
  • Range: In Georgia, these birds are found along the coast, the same as Nelson’s and Seaside Sparrows.
  • Voice: Male Saltmarsh Sparrows sing a varied medley of soft phrases and call notes, possibly imitating other birds, either perched in the saltmarsh or in flight. These songs typically indicate the presence of a nearby female rather than territorial marking. During the breeding season, they emit short, sharp chip notes like tsip, tic, or tuc sounds.

Henslow’s Sparrow (Centronyx henslowii)

  • Features: Henslow’s Sparrows exhibit tan and buff coloring adorned with distinct black streaks. They feature a notable greenish-olive tint on the cheek, accompanied by a yellow spot between the eye and bill. Their breast showcases tidy black streaks, while the belly appears whitish in coloration.
  • Habitat: Henslow’s Sparrows inhabit weedy hayfields or pastures, wet meadows, and during winter, saltmarshes.
  • Range: This species is found in the southern half of Georgia during the winter months.
  • Voice: The Henslow’s Sparrow boasts the simplest and shortest song among North American songbirds, perceived by humans as a straightforward buzzed tzelick. However, spectrographic analysis uncovers a more intricate song beyond the human auditory range. Regarding calls, their typical alarm call is a sharp tsip, accompanied by a series of high-pitched whistles during the breeding season.

Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)

  • Features: Savannah Sparrows exhibit brown upperparts adorned with black streaks, while their underparts showcase white with delicate brown or black streaks along the breast and flanks. A distinguishing feature is the small yellow patch located on the face in front of the eye.
  • Habitat: During breeding season, Savannah Sparrows inhabit open areas with low vegetation, spanning much of northern North America, from tundra to grassland, marshes, and farmland. Even in winter, they remain in open areas, often seen on the ground or amidst low vegetation. Keep an eye out for them along road edges adjacent to farms.
  • Range: Savannah Sparrows breed in the northern-most parts of the state and winter further south in Georgia.
  • Voice: Throughout the breeding season, the male’s song consists of three parts, lasting 2 to 3 seconds: commencing with swift notes, followed by a high-pitched, insect-like buzzy segment, concluding with a rapid lower trill. In terms of calls, akin to other grassland sparrows, they employ short chip notes for alarming, deterring intruders, or near their nest, typically expressed as a soft, hissing tss.

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

  • Features: Song Sparrows feature streaky brown plumage with dense streaks on the white chest and flanks. Upon closer examination, the head showcases an appealing blend of warm red-brown and slaty gray tones, although these hues, along with the degree of streaking, exhibit considerable variation across North America.
  • Habitat: You can spot Song Sparrows in almost any open environment, from marsh edges and overgrown fields to backyards, desert washes, and forest edges. They frequently visit bird feeders and construct nests in residential areas.
  • Range: Song Sparrows are common throughout Georgia, breeding in the northern part of the state.
  • Voice: The Song Sparrow’s song consists of 2–6 phrases starting with abrupt notes and ending with a buzz or trill, lasting 2-4 seconds. Song patterns vary by region. They emit a sharp chip note for alarm, while females use a harsh chatter during nest-building or territory disputes, and young or subordinate birds produce a softer tsip.

Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii)

  • Features: The Lincoln’s Sparrow displays a streaky brown, buffy, and gray plumage overall, accentuated by rusty edges on its wings and tail. Its chest and sides exhibit a rich buff hue with delicate black streaks blending into a white belly. The face features a buffy mustache stripe flanked by slender brown lines, complemented by a buffy eyering, a prominent gray eyebrow, and a dark eyeline encircling the eye. Additionally, its crown showcases brown and black striping with a central crown stripe in gray.
  • Habitat: During breeding season, Lincoln’s Sparrows inhabit wet meadows abundant with willows, alders, and sedges. They also nest in areas with aspens, cottonwoods, and willows, along with shrubby zones near streams. Throughout migration, they frequent brushy fields, forest edges, and thickets. In winter, they can be found in tropical forests, pine-oak forests, tropical scrub, weedy pastures, and shrubby fields.
  • Range: Lincoln’s Sparrows occasionally winter in the south of Georgia but are otherwise mostly seen only during migration.
  • Voice: Lincoln’s Sparrows are known for their melodious songs, reminiscent of wrens. Males deliver a varied composition of trills, gurgles, and buzzes from exposed perches or hidden within shrubs. Each song typically begins with 2 or 3 bell-like notes, followed by lively trills and gurgles that rapidly shift in pitch. Ending with a slender slurred trill, the song lasts around 2 seconds. Additionally, both males and females emit a high-pitched, insect-like zeet call, along with a more assertive chip.

Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)

  • Features: Swamp Sparrows present a predominantly dark appearance, particularly in shaded environments where they tend to conceal themselves. Upon closer observation, distinct features emerge, including a vibrant rusty crown and wings, notably the coverts, along with a grayish breast accentuated by a whitish throat and a gray nape.
  • Habitat: Swamp Sparrows are predominantly found in proximity to water, a habitat preference that persists even during migration. However, migrant individuals occasionally utilize wet fields, thickets, and other areas with low, dense vegetation for cover.
  • Range: Common winter residents throughout Georgia in suitable habitat.
  • Voice: Swamp Sparrows sing a trill in spring and summer, serving to attract mates and mark territory, with slight variations among individuals and regional populations. Their common call is a resonant seet, with males using buzzy notes during conflicts, while females emit stuttering chips when disturbed.

Green-tailed Towhee(Pipilo chlorurus)

  • Features: Green-tailed Towhees are robust songbirds characterized by a large head, stout body, and relatively short tail, distinct from other towhees. They exhibit a sparrow-like bill and are larger than typical sparrows. Sporting grayish plumage with olive-yellow wings, back, and tail, they feature a prominent rufous crown, white throat, and a dark “mustache” stripe on the head.
  • Habitat: Search for Green-tailed Towhees in the shrubby landscapes of the Western United States, especially in disturbed regions of mountain forests, open slopes within the Great Basin, sagebrush plains, and high desert environments. During winter, they congregate with mixed flocks in thick mesquite patches within desert washes.
  • Range: Typically found in the western United States and down to Mexico for the winter, Green-tailed Towhees are rare vagrants to Georgia, most likely only reaching the south-western corner of the state, if that.
  • Voice: Male Green-tailed Towhees produce a complex song consisting of clear whistles and trills lasting around 2.5 seconds, often delivering up to 12 songs per minute during peak breeding season. Their calls include a distinctive mewing sound used by both sexes for communication while foraging or in flight, as well as a sharp, repeated tick note indicating alarm.

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)

  • Features: Male Spotted Towhees display jet-black upperparts and throat, adorned with bright white spots on the wings and back. Their flanks exhibit a warm rufous hue, while the belly remains white. Females share a similar pattern but are grayish-brown instead of black. When in flight, watch for the distinctive white corners on their black tail.
  • Habitat: Search for Spotted Towhees in open shrubland with dense undergrowth. They also frequent backyards, forest edges, and overgrown fields.
  • Range: Like the Green-tailed Towhee, this species is mostly limited to further west, but individuals might occasionally wander to Georgia.
  • Voice: Spotted Towhees sing a simplified version of the Eastern Towhee’s song, typically omitting the middle section, with a duration of about 1.5 seconds. Their calls include a catlike mew and a soft, lisping call for communication.

Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)

  • Features: The males are visually striking, with bold, sooty black coloring on their upperparts and breast, complemented by warm rufous sides and a white belly. Females exhibit a similar pattern but with rich brown coloring where the males display black.
  • Habitat: Search for Eastern Towhees in areas with dense vegetation such as brush, thickets, and forest edges, where they can find ample leaf litter for foraging.
  • Range: Eastern Towhees are common throughout the year across the entire state in the right habitats!
  • Voice: Eastern Towhees are recognized by their distinctive song, a loud “drink-your-tea!” typically sung by males, which lasts about 1 second and consists of a sharp, metallic first note (“drink”) followed by a musical trill (“tea”). They commonly emit a two-parted, rising chewink, tow-hee, or joree call, used by both sexes, often as an alarm, with variations in tone across regions. Towhees also utilize other calls, including a high-pitched, quiet, lisping call for communication, and a sharp tic when mobbing or fleeing predators.

Threats and Conservation

In Georgia, sparrows face threats from habitat loss due to urbanization and agriculture, as well as predation by invasive species like feral cats. Climate change adds to these challenges. Conservation efforts focus on habitat restoration, land preservation, and invasive species management, alongside community engagement to raise awareness and promote conservation actions.

Citizen Science

Citizen science initiatives, like eBird, play a crucial role in monitoring sparrow populations in Georgia. Bird enthusiasts contribute valuable data by recording their sightings, helping researchers track population trends, distribution patterns, and seasonal movements. This collective effort provides insights into the health of sparrow populations and informs conservation strategies. By engaging citizen scientists, eBird fosters a sense of stewardship among communities, empowering individuals to contribute to scientific research and conservation efforts.

Vote!

Conclusion

Sparrows are some of Georgia’s most familiar bird species. But the sparrows in Georgia are diverse and varied and fill different niches in the state’s ecological landscape. Without these birds, things would be quite different, so it is of utmost importance that we work to protect our birdlife, sparrows included for future generations.

Credits:

All About Birds – www.allaboutbirds.org

Sibley, D. (2020). Birds of Eastern North America. Helm.