Those Little Brown Birds in the Yard

We have a number of little brown birds in our backyards. They all become a blur of same looking birds but they are distinct species. With a little practice you can tell who is who in this menagerie of birds.

Let us focus on four resident species who frequent our bird feeder; Dark Eyed Juncos, House Finches, House Sparrows, & Song Sparrows.

The quotes & bird info photos below are from Cornell Labs All About Birds website. Great site to visit if you are trying to identify a bird.  Link to follow to

Dark Eyed Junco (Oregon)

Here in Washington we have an abundance of the Oregon geographic variation.  Here is a bit on the variations from Cornell Labs.

There is a huge range of geographic variation in the Dark-eyed Junco. Among the 15 described races, six forms are easily recognizable in the field and five used to be considered separate species until the 1980s. A field guide is the best place to look but in general there are two widespread forms of the Dark-eyed Junco: “slate-colored” junco of the eastern United States and most of Canada, which is smooth gray above; and “Oregon” junco, found across much of the western U.S., with a dark hood, warm brown back and rufous flanks.

Here is a photo from my back yard of the Oregon Dark Eyed Junco.

Junco owning this Wisteria branch

Here is a photo and info from Cornell Labs.

I have never seen the other variations. That means I do not have any photos of the Slate Colored Juncos but here is a photo and info shot from Cornell.

House Finch

Next we are going to talk about the House Finch. The male in breeding season has a bright red breast with a stripy body. His ladies (he will have a harem) are all brown striped. Both have a bit heavier beak than the Juncos.

Read an interesting article on House Finches vs House Sparrows.  As the Finch population grows in an area the House Sparrow group will decline.  Also true in reverse when the Sparrows are strong the Finches move away. My backyard seems to have followed this observation.

Pair of House Finches in my Wisteria that is next to the feeder.

Below is what Cornell Labs has on these small but mighty brown birds.

House Sparrow

Over the years we have had a bunch of these little brown birds in our yards. They nest in our laurel hedge and David feeds the babies bread.

The first of many successful introductions to North America occurred when birds from England were released in New York City, in 1852. They can be considered invasive due to their ability to live along side humans very successfully.

House Sparrow Adult with baby on our old fence

Cornell has this on Identification of these everywhere birds.

Song Sparrow

This is where the brown birds start to really look alike. In the photos you can see how this bird looks a bit like both the House Finch & House Sparrow girls.

In the spring they can belt out a song to attract a mate. Around the backyard they are more quiet but in the woods they are free to be themselves.  I was fortunate to film that singing in action down at Fauntleroy Park.

Here is a photo of the pair hanging out in the salmon berry bushes.

Pair of Song Sparrows

And I leave you with the snip from Cornell Labs.

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