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June 15, 2013 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Lincoln’s Sparrow

The Lincoln’s Sparrow is one of the more elusive birds of North America. They have a large range but are difficult to find and secretive in nature preferring the cover of dense shrubs.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Last month I was fortunate to stumble across one along a trail in the forest preserve. I was searching for migrating warblers when I spotted this little guy in a shrub along the DuPage River. A quick pause between the branches was the best opportunity I had to get a shot of him and then he was gone.

Lincoln's SparrowI wasn’t able to get an unobscured photo of the entire bird. They resemble the Song Sparrow but without the large spot on the breast. Also, the Lincoln’s has fine streaking on a buffy colored upper breast while the Song has coarser streaking on a whitish breast. I did get a shot of the front of the bird, and you can clearly see the color and the streaking, but being a shy bird, he stuck his head behind a leaf and looks a little silly.
(Click thumbnail for a larger view.)

Long Distance Migrant

The Lincoln’s Sparrows are long distance migrants making the journey north and south each year. They breed mostly in the boreal regions of Canada and winter in the southern US and Mexico. They don’t have a year-round range.

I only get a couple of weeks to see them as they pass through the Chicago area. This is a bird that most people will never see unless they go out searching for it. This is not a sparrow that will come to your backyard feeder.

Interesting Facts:

It’s such a secretive little bird that not much about is known about it. I was able to dig up one interesting note:

• John James Audubon found this species in 1833 while on an expedition in Nova Scotia and named it after his travel companion Thomas Lincoln.


Saturday Snapshot was originated by Alyce at At Home With Books. For the summer it will be hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

© 2013 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.



Leave a Comment
  1. Beth Hoffman / Jun 15 2013 11:24 am

    How wonderful that you were able to capture a shot of this elusive little fellow!


    • Leslie / Jun 15 2013 11:28 am

      Sometimes you get lucky! I already had the camera out and was photographing Palm Warblers. This sparrow would have never waited for me. I only had about 20 seconds to get him.


  2. irene / Jun 15 2013 11:52 am

    I can see you creeping around looking for these birds.


    • Leslie / Jun 15 2013 4:12 pm

      I’ve gotten very good at hiding behind trees and shrubs.


  3. Christine Harding / Jun 15 2013 12:06 pm

    Another species I’ve never heard of – I learn so much from your blog, as well as enjoying the beautiful photos. My Snapshot is


  4. laurelrainsnow / Jun 15 2013 12:20 pm

    A secretive bird….now I definitely want to know more! lol

    Thanks for sharing…and enjoy your weekend.


  5. Suko / Jun 15 2013 1:10 pm

    Very pretty photo of this darling bird! I love the eye. Interesting note about this bird!


    • Leslie / Jun 15 2013 2:25 pm

      The thin, buffy eye-ring is another distinguishing characteristic of the Lincoln’s.


  6. Arti / Jun 15 2013 1:10 pm

    Yes, I’ve heard of the Lincoln Sparrow but haven’t actually seen one. Maybe I have but not knowing. Thanks for these photos and info!


    • Leslie / Jun 15 2013 2:35 pm

      After you go out on enough field trips you start to see the differences in birds that look similar. I have seen soooo many Song Sparrows now that the difference in the breast streaking on this Lincoln just popped out at me. Plus it was the right time of year and the right habitat.


  7. BermudaOnion / Jun 15 2013 4:09 pm

    Aw, I’m glad you saw him, even if he was hiding from you!


  8. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Jun 15 2013 6:09 pm

    How cool, I can just imagine you poking your head from behind bushes to get all these great shots.


  9. Brona / Jun 15 2013 7:24 pm

    For a shy bird you got a pretty good shot of him. It looks like he is peeking his eye out at us 🙂


  10. Beth F / Jun 16 2013 5:59 am

    I was wondering why I wasn’t that familiar with this sparrow. It’s because they don’t linger in PA — just migrate through.


  11. Elizabeth / Jun 16 2013 10:09 am

    How cute…thanks for sharing.

    Silver’s Reviews
    My Saturday Snapshot


  12. cindy knoke / Jul 16 2013 5:01 pm

    So cute & I learned something(s) new! Thank you~


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