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This is the key to identifying Maine's 16 species of sparrows

This story was originally published in June 2022.

It is natural. Inexperienced birders quickly learn to love warblers and hate sparrows. Warblers are bright and colorful. Sparrows are… meh. They are brown, streaky and often uncooperative. Many birders give up trying to identify them and simply call them LBJs – little brown birds.

It gets worse. The young will leave the nest from the beginning of June and for the rest of the summer. They mix with adults, but look different. As with many species, greater camouflage is required for endangered young birds. They tend to be stringier than their parents and may not look anything like their parents.

Fortunately, there is hope. Most sparrows prefer certain habitats. Sometimes you can recognize a sparrow just by where it is.

Let’s avoid house sparrows. This Old World species was introduced from Europe in 1851 and is not closely related to our native sparrows. House sparrows are city dwellers and often nest in man-made structures. Their natural habitat is the indoor garden center at Home Depot.

There are more than two dozen species of North American sparrows and 16 are found in Maine. Song sparrows are the most common. They are generalists and can be found almost everywhere, from forest edges to urban backyards. If you spot a sparrow fluttering around in the bushes, it is most likely a song sparrow.

Anna Harden

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