Sparrows in Montana

24 Sparrows in Montana: Birds You Can Find in the State

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Montana is arguably one of the most beautiful states in the country. Within its borders, you can find mountains and valleys, rivers and streams, badlands, caverns, prairies, forests, and so much more.

All of this geographic diversity means that Montana is rich in wildlife and birdlife. You can check out our Montana Bird Guide to learn more about the incredible birds that live here, including birds of prey, corvids, hummingbirds, jays, songbirds, and so many more.

Of the 443 species of birds that have been identified in Montana, 24 are sparrows that regularly visit or live in the state.

What Makes a Sparrow a Sparrow?

Sparrows are commonly called “little brown jobs,” or LBJs, because they are small, mostly brown little birds that can be difficult to distinguish from one another.

They are usually between 5 and 7 inches long. They are all passerines, which means they are songbirds. They tend to have brown coloring, often with streaks of black and tan. They will sometimes have flashes of color, like yellow, orange, or rufous.

They have thick, short, conical bills, which they use to catch insects and crack open nuts and seeds.

How Many Sparrows Are in Montana?

There are 24 different kinds of sparrows who regularly spend time in Montana. This includes a number of breeding-season sparrows, winter-only sparrows, sparrows who live here year-round, and sparrows that travel through Montana as they migrate.

For our list of sparrows, we have divided them into four categories so that you know when to expect to see them.

Identifying Sparrows

Learning to Identify sparrows is quite a challenge for bird watchers! These little birds often look very similar to one another, and there can also be variations in one species’ appearance from region to region.

When learning to spot and ID sparrows, take note of the following details:

  • Their colors
  • The patterns of their markings
  • Their silhouette/shape
  • What they are eating
  • What they are doing
  • When you saw them
  • Where you saw them (region and specific habitat)

With some practice, any birder can learn to identify these sparrows. It can be a lot of fun to watch for the subtle shape and color differences from sparrow to sparrow. Enjoy your sparrow sightings!

Sparrows in Montana All Year

The sparrows that live in Montana all year are the Dark-eyed Junco, the House Sparrow, and the Song Sparrow. These little birds, if they migrate at all, don’t go far.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-Eyed Juncos
  • Junco hyemalis
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 5.5-6.3 in (14-16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz (18-30 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 in (18-25 cm)

Dark-eyed Juncos live all year in Montana’s western regions, including Glacier Country, Yellowstone Country, Southwest Montana, and Central Montana. In the eastern half of the state, they are winter-only residents.

These little birds are pretty cute. They have round bodies and are much darker than many of the brown-striped sparrows on this list. From above, they are dark gray – almost black. Their bellies and chests are white.

Dark-eyed Juncos have a pink bill and white outer tail feathers.

Females build their nests out of grasses and bark, usually on the sloping ground. Their cup-shaped nest is protected by the thick grasses. They like Montana’s mountain ranges, especially if there are coniferous or mixed-coniferous forests available.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow
  • Passer domesticus
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passeridae
  • Length: 5.9-6.7 in (15-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.9-1.1 oz (27-30 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-9.8 in (19-25 cm)

House Sparrows live and thrive among humans. They are a well-established invasive species that originally came from Europe. Unfortunately, they are aggressive little birds who outcompete native bird species for territory, nesting spaces, food, and more. They will even kill other birds in their chosen territory!

House Sparrow males have white cheeks, a gray head, a black bib, and a rufous-brown neck. Females are mostly brown, but they have stripes on their backs as well.

They are widespread throughout Montana, but you will only find them where people live. When they live in a remote area, they will be close to any isolated barns, houses, and businesses that they can find.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow
  • Melospiza melodia
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 4.7-6.7 in (12-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-1.9 oz (12-53 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.1-9.4 in (18-24 cm)

Song Sparrows look different from region to region. All of them, regardless of regional variation, are brown with white streaks on their chests and thick, white flanks. Their hue varies from light brown to reddish brown, and they will have different amounts of streaking.

Song Sparrows return to the exact same nesting ground every year, sometimes even returning to the previous year’s nest!

Imagine drawing a diagonal line across Montana from the northwest corner to the southeast corner. To the west and south of the line, Song Sparrows are year-round residents. To the east and north of the line, they are breeding-season-only residents.

Song Sparrows eat insects in the summer and then switch to a diet of seeds in the winter. You can attract them to feeders by offering high-quality birdseed during the winter.

They are found in brushy fields, thickets, and gardens.

Sparrows in Montana During the Summer

Montana has several summer-only sparrows. They typically arrive in the spring and leave again in the fall. These are the Baird’s Sparrow, the Brewer’s Sparrow, the Chipping Sparrow, the Clay-Colored Sparrow, the Field Sparrow, the Fox Sparrow, the Grasshopper Sparrow, the Green-Tailed Towhee, the Lark Bunting, the Lark Sparrow, the LeConte’s Sparrow, the Nelson’s Sparrow, the Savannah Sparrow, the Spotted Towhee, and the Vesper Sparrow.

That’s a lot of sparrows to find in Montana during the summer! (Keep in mind that you can also see the year-round residents in the summer, so don’t forget about those if you are trying to ID a Montana sparrow in the summertime.)

Baird’s Sparrow

Baird’s Sparrow
  • Centronyx bairdii
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.5-0.8 oz (15-21.5 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.7-9.1 in (22-23 cm)

Baird’s Sparrows are only found in two places. In the summer, they are found mostly in Montana, Nebraska, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, but also in small parts of South Dakota, Manitoba, and Minnesota.

In the winter, they migrate to northcentral Mexico and the southern borders of Texas and California.

They are small but chunky little birds with flat heads and thick bills. They have short, notched tails and pale brown feathers. They have brown and black streaks on their backs and flanks, a white belly, and a yellowish head.

They are prairie birds who nest in tall grasses, hayfields, and ungrazed pastures.

Unfortunately, Baird’s Sparrows are in serious jeopardy. There has been a 65% decrease in their population since 1968, which is why they are on the Yellow Watch List.

Brewer’s Sparrow

Brewer’s Sparrow
  • Spizella breweri
  • ORDER: Passeriform
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 5.1-5.9 in (13-15 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz (11-14 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.1-7.9 in (18-20 cm)

As the smallest sparrow in North America, the Brewer’s Sparrow is grayish-brown with brown stripes on its back and neck. Its eyes are ringed in white, and above the eyering is a light gray stripe. The Brewer’s Sparrow has a notched tail and rounded wings.

During the summer, Brewer’s Sparrows are found throughout the western US, in habitats that range from mountains to grasslands. They migrate to northcentral Mexico and California for the winter, and some live year-round in Southern California.

Brewer’s Sparrows are the most abundant bird in the interior West. Males sing with a long, trill, often while perching on sagebrush. They avoid open areas and instead stick to thick underbrush and shrubs.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow
  • Spizella passerina
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 4.7-5.9 in (12-15 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz (11-16 g
  • Wingspan: 8.3 in (21 cm)

Chipping Sparrows are incredibly widespread North American sparrows. They spend the summer in almost every US state and most of Canada.

Their winter territory, on the other hand, is limited to Florida, parts of Mexico, and the Caribbean. Some live year-round in Central America, too.

The male Chipping Sparrow has crisp dark streaking on his wings and back. He also has a rufous cap. Females are darker in their coloring, but their pattern is just about the same.

They are a great bird to have in your neighborhood because they consume so many insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, spiders, leafhoppers, and caterpillars.

They build an open cup-shaped nest in the grass out of weeds, stems, and roots. They are especially likely to be found in Montana’s open prairie grasslands.

Clay-colored Sparrow

Clay-Colored Sparrow
  • Spizella pallida
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 5.1–6 in (130–150 mm)
  • Weight: 12 g (0.42 oz)
  • Wingspan: 7.5 in (190 mm)

Clay-colored Sparrows are grayish-tan, like some kinds of natural clay. Look for a pale gray collar around the bird’s neck and some thin, fine streaks on their heads.

They breed throughout all of Montana, in the state’s shrubby woodlands, thickets, and along the edges of fields.

Clay-colored Sparrows are declining in numbers, but they are still the most common songbird in the northern prairies of the US.

One interesting trait of the Clay-colored Sparrow is that after their babies hatch, the mother and father sparrows clean out the eggshells from the nest. They may carry them away from the nest, or they may eat the shells, but they don’t allow the shells to stay and “clutter” the nest.

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow
  • Spizella pusilla
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 4.7-5.9 in (12-15 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz (11-15 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9 in (20 cm)

Field Sparrows look similar to one another, regardless of sex. Males and females are gray with brown streaking on their backs and wings. They have a rusty-brown cap, a pink bill, and white eyerings.

As their name implies, they like grassy fields and avoid heavily populated areas. Montana lies at the western edge of their breeding territory, so you will only find them in the eastern half of the state.

As the victims of suburban expansion, Field Sparrows are experiencing a population decline.

If you find a Field Sparrow nest on the ground, it’s likely the first nest of the season. A nest that is in a bush or tree is usually the second attempt at a nest because the first was attacked by predators.

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow
  • Passerella iliaca
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 5.9-7.5 in (15-19 cm)
  • Weight: 0.9-1.6 oz (26-44 g)
  • Wingspan: 10.5-11.4 in (26.7-29 cm)

The Fox Sparrow is reddish-brown and gray. The amount of red can vary from bird to bird. Some are almost entirely red, while many others just have some degree of red striping on their bodies. They also have thick brown spots on their chests.

Fox Sparrows kick ground litter around as they search for food. In the summer, their diet is mostly made up of insects. In the winter, it is mostly seeds.

Although they have been documented in places as far away as Greenland, Iceland, Germany, and Italy, Fox Sparrows do not migrate to those places. Rather, they may hitch a ride on a ship and end up far from home.

In Montana, whether or not you will see Fox Sparrows depends on where you are in the state. In the west, Fox Sparrows are breeding season residents. In central Montana, they are only present during their migration periods. In the east, there are no Fox Sparrows at all.

Fox Sparrows visit birdfeeders and nest on the ground.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow
  • Ammodramus savannarum
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 4.3-4.5 in (10.8-11.5 cm)
  • Weight: 0.5-0.7 oz (14-20 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9 in (20 cm)

Grasshopper Sparrows don’t get their name from the fact that they eat grasshoppers — although they do eat grasshoppers! Their name actually comes from their vocalizations.

Grasshopper Sparrows make a loud buzzing sound that is similar to the vibratory sounds of a grasshopper. In addition, male Grasshopper Sparrows sing a melodic but squeaky song. They are one of the only sparrows with two different songs.

The appearance of the Grasshopper Sparrow is somewhat muted. Their coloring can range from tan or gray to light orange. They have thick necks, flat heads, stubby tails, and large bills.

Grasshopper Sparrows breed in most of Montana, but they are not found in Southwest Montana. They are less dependent upon ground cover, as they are more comfortable being out in the open. Look for them on the barbed wire fences alongside fields without a lot of shrubs.

Green-tailed Towhee

Green-Tailed Towhee
  • Pipilo chlorurus
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 8.3-9.8 inches (21–25 cm)
  • Weight: 1.3-2.4 oz (37-67 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.4 inches (29 cm)

The Green-tailed Towhee is one of the prettiest Passeriformes in Montana.

They are mostly gray-bodied, but they have gorgeous green wings and tail feathers. Additionally, the Green-tailed Towhee has a bright rufous crown, which makes it stand out from other birds in the area. Finally, they have white throats and a dark stripe on the fact that looks like a mustache.

They live in shrubby habitats in the Western US, including on the slopes of the Great Basin. Their summer breeding ground extends into Southwest Montana and Yellowstone Country.

They depart in the fall to spend the winter in Mexico and return in the early spring.

Lark Bunting

lark bunting
  • Calamospiza melanocorys
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 5.5-7.1 in (14-18 cm)
  • Weight: 1.3-1.5 oz (35.3-41.3 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8-11.0 in (25-28 cm)

The male Lark Bunting is one of the easiest-to-identify birds on this list – during the breeding season, anyway. Females and non-breeding males are harder to distinguish from other Passeriformes.

In the summer, males are dark black with some white patches on their wings. During the winter, males are streaky and brown, but still with quite a bit of white on their upper wings. Females are always streaky and brown. Lark Buntings have a thick blue-gray bill.

They are not found in Glacier Country or Southwest Montana, but they do breed throughout the rest of the state. They are common birds in Montana’s prairies, especially among plants like green-plumed rabbitbrush, four-winged saltbush, and red triple-awn grass.

Because they nest in the base of shrubs and cacti, they need shrubby grassland, not pure grassland prairies.

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow
  • Chondestes grammacus
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 5.9-6.7 in (15-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-1.2 oz (24-33 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.0 in (28 cm)

The Lark Sparrow is larger than many other sparrows and has a long, rounded tail. The Lark Sparrow’s face is lined in dark brown stripes. Otherwise, the rest of its body is light gray, with some additional brown on the wings. Look for a black spot right in the middle of the adult’s chest.

Lark Sparrows forage on the ground but will also fly into the trees and shrubs if they are frightened or threatened.

Other than the very western edge of Montana, Lark Sparrows breed throughout the state. Their preferred nesting habitat is made up of open ground with some tall plants. Dry grasslands with lots of shrubs are popular among Lark Sparrows, too, as are overgrazed pastures and pinyon-juniper woodlands.

LeConte’s Sparrow

Ammospiza leconteii
  • Ammospiza leconteii
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 4.7-5.1 in (12-13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz (12-16.3 g)
  • Wingspan: 6.3-7.1 in (16-18 cm)

LeConte’s Sparrows are notoriously hard to find.

They are ridiculously good at camouflaging themselves, and they almost never leave the safety of ground cover. Sometimes, you will see them burst out of the bushes only to return again right away. You may be more likely to hear them because of their sharp, high call.

LeConte’s Sparrows also avoid detection by breeding in remote territories away from people. They forage for insects and seeds, and often, instead of flying away from a threat, they scurry along the ground. They are declining in numbers and have been placed on the Yellow Watch List.

They are thick little sparrows with flat heads and very short wings. They have an orangeish hue, which is the darkest on their head and breast. Their wings and backs are streaked in black. You may also be able to see a grayish-purple patch on the back of their neck.

LeConte’s Sparrows are barely present in Montana. They primarily breed in rural Alberta and Saskatchewan, but they have a small breeding population at the northern edge of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, right on the Canadian border.

Nelson’s Sparrow

Nelson’s Sparrow
  • Ammospiza nelsoni
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-0.7 oz (17-21 g)
  • Wingspan: 6.5-7.9 in (16.5-20 cm)

Nelson’s Sparrows are mostly brown, but they have yellow markings on their head, neck, back, and chest.

Some Nelson’s Sparrows breed along the Hudson Bay and Gulf of St. Lawrence, but most of them spread out across Alberta and Saskatchewan. These birds are darker than their coastal counterparts.

A small number of these sparrows also breed in Montana’s Missouri River Country.

Previously, Nelson’s Sparrows and Saltmarsh Sparrows were assumed to be the same species: The Sharp-Tailed Sparrow. In 2009, ornithologists recognized that there were enough differences to view them as unique species.

The Nelson’s Sparrow is named for the American naturalist Edward William Nelson.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow
  • Passerculus sandwichensis
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 4.3-5.9 in (11-15 cm)
  • Weight: 0.5-1.0 oz (15-28 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9-8.7 in (20-22 cm)

The yellow area between the Savannah Sparrow’s eyes and the bill makes this little sparrow much easier to identify than the ones that are all brown and gray.

Savannah Sparrows also have a small head, dark streaks on the wings and back, and a sharp little bill.

Savannah Sparrows have a wide breeding range that stretches across most of North America. That includes all of Montana.

They nest in thick grasses, usually left over from the previous year. Watch for them in patches of goldenrod, blueberries, blackberries, bayberries, wild roses, and other shrubs. They are bolder than some other sparrow varieties and will often make their easily-identifiable “buzz” sound while out in the open.

Spotted Towhee

Spotted towhee
  • Pipilo maculatus
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 6.7-8.3 in (17-21 cm)
  • Weight: 1.2-1.7 oz (33-49 g)
  • Wingspan: 11.0 in (28 cm)

Like other Towhees, Spotted Towhees are distinct from other sparrows and quite easy to identify. Males are dark black on top, including their throat, head, and wings. They have rufous flanks and a white belly. The biggest difference between the Spotted Towhee and the Eastern Towhee is revealed in the name: the Spotted Towhee is covered in bright white spots on its back wings.

Females are grayish-brown wherever males are black.

Montana is right in the middle of the Spotted Towhee’s breeding territory. They can be found in thick shrubs and brush, although they will fly up to higher branches in search of food.

They live in shrubby undergrowth and thickets, avoiding open areas. They pick bugs and insects off of the bark of the trees and shrubs that also give them shelter.

Their breeding season diet mostly consists of insects (weevils, ladybugs, beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, moths, crickets, bees, and wasps). They will also eat other critters that they find in the leaf litter that they forage through, such as millipedes, spiders, and sowbugs. In the winter, their diet transitions to primarily plant-based, such as raspberries, thistle, buckwheat, blackberries, sumac, poison oak, chickweed, oat, corn, cherries, and more.

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow
  • Pooecetes gramineus
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 5.1-6.3 in (13-16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz (20-28 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.4 in (24 cm)

The Vesper Sparrow is one of the largest sparrows in North America. They have chestnut-brown patches on their shoulders and brown streaks on most of their body. They also have white eyerings.

A Vespers service is a prayer service that is held at sundown in some Christian traditions, and that is where Vesper Sparrows gets their name. They sing a beautiful, melodic tune at dusk.

As one of the largest kinds of sparrows in North America, the Vesper Sparrow has chestnut-brown shoulder patches, a streaky brown body, and white eyerings.

They are found throughout Montana during the summer. They build their nests on the ground, under the protective cover of tall grass. Often, they will find a spot right next to a fallen tree, log, or branch.

Montana’s One Winter-Season Sparrow

Sparrows are much less plentiful in the winter. In addition to the year-round sparrows, only one sparrow specifically comes to Montana for the winter and then migrates for the breeding season. That is the American Tree Sparrow.

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow
  • Spizelloides arborea
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 5.5 in (14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.5-1.0 oz (13-28 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.4 in (24 cm)

Some American Tree Sparrows have a red patch on the breast which helps birders identify them, but not all American Tree Sparrows have this marking. Their bodies are gray, and they have a dark red crown on their heads. Their wings are striped.

After breeding in Canada, American Tree Sparrows migrate to their winter habitats. Their winter territory stretches all the way across the US, and as far south as northern Texas.

They can be found in Montana’s thick shrubs and bushes, especially along snow-covered fields. They like to perch in goldenrod and sing.

You will usually see American Tree Sparrows eating, as they need to consume 30% of their body weight every single day to survive.

Migratory Visitors to Montana

Montana hosts several migratory sparrows every spring and fall as they move between their summer breeding territory and wintering grounds. These birds are the Harris’s Sparrow, the Lincoln’s Sparrow, the Swamp Sparrow, the White-crowned Sparrow, and the White-throated Sparrow.

Harris’s Sparrow

Harris's Sparrow
  • Zonotrichia querula
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 6.7-7.9 in (17-20 cm)
  • Weight: 0.9-1.7 oz (26-49 g)
  • Wingspan: 10.6 in (27 cm)

Male Harris’s Sparrows have distinctive black on their face, bib, and crown. The younger the Harris’s Sparrow, the patchier this black area looks. During the summer breeding season, adults also have gray cheeks and a gray nape (during the winter, their cheeks and nape are brown).

All Harris’s Sparrows are pink-billed and white-bellied with black streaks on their back and wings. The rest of the body is streaked in brown and black.

Aside from Towhees, Harris’s Sparrow is the largest sparrow in North America. It is also the only songbird that breeds exclusively in Canada.

Harris’s Sparrows migrate through the eastern edge of Montana as they travel to and from their Canadian breeding grounds and their Great Plains winter habitat.

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow
  • Melospiza lincolnii
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 5.1-5.9 in (13-15 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-0.7 oz (17-19 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in (19-22 cm)

Lincoln’s Sparrows have dark brown stripes over mostly gray bodies. They have brown-tipped tails and wings, white bellies, and a pale mustache. On their crown, which raises and lowers just a tiny bit, they have a light gray stripe.

Sometimes, because of the crown, they look like they have a very small crest.

Lincoln’s Sparrows migrate through most of Montana, but they will nest and breed in the western part of the state. The female Lincoln’s Sparrow builds her nest at or just above ground level, often inside a willow or birch shrub.

During their migration, you can hear them in thickets and along the edges of Montana’s forests.

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow
  • Melospiza georgiana
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 4.7-5.9 in (12-15 cm)
  • Weight: 0.5-0.8 oz (15-23 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.1-7.5 in (18-19 cm)

Swamp Sparrows and Song Sparrows have very similar silhouettes. They both have long tails and round bodies.

Another opportunity for confusion is that the reddish-brown cap on its head may lead to people mixing the Swamp Sparrow with the Chipping Sparrow. However, Swamp Sparrows are much larger and bulkier — and they are far more isolated.

The Swamp Sparrow has a rusty-brown head and wings, grayish-white undersides, and long, strong legs.

They prefer wetland habitats, and they use those long, bulky legs to forage in the mud for seeds, invertebrates, and fruit. They migrate through Montana in the spring and fall, but only through the eastern part of the state.

In migration, they tend to find marshy resting areas, as well as thickets that grow along streams. They hide well in those thickets and grasses, so they can be difficult to identify!

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow
  • Zonotrichia leucophrys
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 5.9-6.3 in (15-16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.9-1.0 oz (25-28 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.3-9.4 in (21-24 cm)

The large White-crowned Sparrow has dramatically colored black and white crown feathers that raise and lower just a little bit. It has brown wings, a gray belly, and small yellow or orange bill. Sometimes, its bill even looks a bit pink. Their silhouette is round.

Although they are winter residents throughout much of North America, eastern Montana only sees White-crowned Sparrows while they are traveling on their migration routes. However, western Montana, including Glacier Country, is part of the bird’s breeding territory.

They find small depressions in the ground and use those to build a cup-shaped nest out of twigs, bark, and grass.

White-throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow
  • Zonotrichia albicollis
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae
  • Length: 6.3-7.1 in (16-18 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-1.1 oz (22-32 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9-9.1 in (20-23 cm)

It’s pretty easy to remember what the White-throated Sparrow looks like. That descriptive name will remind you that this dark brown sparrow has a white throat. Additionally, the White-throated Sparrow has thick black stripes on the head, as well as black stripes across the eyes.

The space between the eyes and the bill – called the lore – is also yellow.

White-throated Sparrows migrate through eastern and central Montana, but they do not have any presence in Glacier Country or Southwest Montana.

Enjoy Spotting Sparrows in Montana!

Whether you are visiting Montana or live here year-round, there are always interesting birds to find. Whether you’re looking for the shy LeConte’s Sparrow, the beautiful Green-tailed Towhee, the plentiful Dark-eyed Junco, or any other “little brown job” with charming features, Montana is the perfect place to be.

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