Field Sparrow

Spizella pusilla


Year-round Resident
Infrequently Seen

Field Sparrows are common year-round residents in the Washington metro area. A few pass through Monticello Park, most likely around the end of April.

Where to See Them in the Park

Field Sparrows prefer brushy fields, and Monticello does not contain such habitat.

Physical Description


Field Sparrow
Field Sparrow - Photo by William Higgins

Field Sparrows have a rufous crown and cheek, a gray line over the eye, and a white eyering. The most prominent fieldmark is the short pink bill. The breast is unmarked, but there can be a rufous wash on the flanks. The sexes are similar. Field Sparrows look small and pert when perched or foraging on the ground. When in mixed flocks, they typically are lower in the pecking order than larger birds, such as White-throated and Song Sparrows.

Field Sparrow
Field Sparrow - Photo by Michael Pollack

Western populations of Field Sparrows look grayer. There are many intermediate variations between gray birds and rufous ones.

Field Sparrow
Field Sparrow - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Field Sparrow
Field Sparrow - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Vocalizations

The song of the Field Sparrow features a few long notes that end in a trill.

Hear the vocalizations of the Field Sparrow.

Notes

Birders use various aids to remember birdsong. Some aids represent the song in words or attempt to spell what the song sounds like. Other aids use analogies with familiar sounds. One of the Pine Siskin's calls sounds like a phonograph needle being dragged across a record (for those who remember phonograph records). The song of the Black-and-white Warbler has been likened to a squeaky wheel. The sound and rhythm of the Field Sparrow's song has been compared to a ping-pong ball bouncing on a table.

Origin of Names

Common Names: Field from their preferred habitat. Sparrow from the Anglo-Saxon spearwa, which means "flutterer".
Genus Name: Spizella means "finch".
Species Name: Pusilla means "smallest". Field Sparrows are small, but other sparrows in the genus are smaller.

Field Sparrow video footage

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