Lincoln’s Sparrow

Melospiza lincolnii
Range Map

One of my favorites, the Lincoln’s Sparrow ranges over most of the North American continent. These birds breed in bogs and wet riparian areas, mostly in northern and mountain areas. Winter finds them near the west coast of the USA, southern USA and much of Mexico.

I became a fan of Lincoln’s Sparrows in 2005, with the first bird I met in Alaska. I admire the subtle richness of the browns and grays they wear. Later (2014) they solidified the relationship with me when a half dozen individuals settled in my yard one winter and enjoyed the mealworms I offered. In 2020 and 2021, when I travelled to Texas, they were there for me to appreciate until spring migration started them moving north.

There is a “sneaky nature” to this bird. They are often shy and retiring, refusing to reveal themselves to the interested birder. Brushy fields attract Lincoln’s Sparrows, as these places offer suitable cover and feeding opportunities.

Today’s science recognises three subspecies of Lincoln’s Sparrow:

  • M. l. lincolnii and M. l. alticola breeds in Alaska and northern Canada. Some researchers believe we should unite them as a single subspecies.
  • M. l. gracilis breeds in southern Alaska and British Columbia, and sometimes interbreeds with M. l. lincolnii

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