Lincoln's Sparrow

Melospiza lincolnii
A Lincoln's Sparrow specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (5 ½ inches) bunting, Lincoln’s Sparrow is most easily identified by streaked brown back, gray breast, white throat, and reddish-brown cap. This species may be separated from the highly similar Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana) by its buff flanks streaked with brown. Male and female Lincoln’s Sparrows are similar to one another in all seasons. Lincoln’s Sparrow breeds across much of Alaska, Canada, and the northern tier of the United States, extending southward at higher elevations in the western U.S. as far as Arizona. In winter, this species migrates south to the Pacific coast of the U.S., the desert southwest, portions of the central U.S. from Texas to Alabama, and south into Mexico and Central America. On migration, Lincoln’s Sparrows may be found elsewhere in North America, including in the northeast, southeast, and Midwest. Lincoln’s Sparrows breed in wet northern forests, primarily in and around bogs. In winter, this species may be found in dry deserts, grasslands, and tropical forests. Lincoln’s Sparrows primarily eat insects in summer, but switch to seeds, berries, and fruits in winter when insects may be unavailable. Lincoln’s Sparrows may be most easily seen walking or hopping on the ground while foraging for food. This species takes short, straight flights between areas of vegetation cover, ordinarily staying close to the tops of bushes or grasses. This species is primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Uncommon migrant and winter visitor. Migrates through this region in May and from early September to mid-October. Found in fields and along wood margins. Sexes are similar.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31269 Melospiza lincolnii (Lincoln's Sparrow)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31270 Melospiza lincolnii (Lincoln's Sparrow)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31271 Melospiza lincolnii (Lincoln's Sparrow)