Tips for Identifying Sparrows
It is sparrow season in Northeast Florida. They're small, plump and generally brown. Lest you refer to them as LBJ's (little brown jobs), here are a few tips in identifying some species you may encounter this winter. For starters, note if the breast is clear or streaked. Generally, adult sparrows in our area with little to no streaking on the breast could be Chipping, White-throated, White-crowned, Bachman's, Field, and Grasshopper. Sparrows with streaked breasts could be Savannah, Song, Swamp, Vesper, Henslow's, Lincoln's and Le Conte's. Another key to consider is does the sparrow have an eye ring? Vesper is a good example. Consider habitat. A Swamp Sparrow would not be found in a field. Likewise, a Field Sparrow would not be found in a wet, swampy area. Another clue is whether or not the sparrow is solitary or seen with others. Savannah and Chipping Sparrows are often seen with others. Henslow's and Lincoln's (if you're fortunate enough to see one) will likely be solitary. Here are a couple of documents prepared by Adam Kent to assist with identification. One is sparrow identification. Head patterns should also be considered. Does the sparrow have dark whiskers or stripes on the crown? Here is a link to Sparrow head topography.
For our wintering marsh sparrows, Nelson's and Saltmarsh, here is a link to a photo essay by the American Birding Association: https://www.aba.org/nab/v65n2sparrows.pdf
Some members of Duval Audubon recently helped with St. Augustine's annual Christmas Bird Count. Members of Laura Johannsen's team were treated to great views of a Lincoln's Sparrow.