Sparrows are loved worldwide for their beautiful markings, inquisitive nature, and sometimes boisterous behavior. But did you know that there are more than one species of Sparrow?
There are 300 different Sparrow species worldwide, with 44 setting up homes across North America.
However, from this number, there are only 6 that have striped heads.
If you’ve recently spotted a bird in your local park or garden with a striped head and a Sparrow-like appearance, but you couldn’t quite figure out what it was, you’ve come to the right place.
Below, we’ll look at 6 species of Sparrow with striped heads.
We’ll explore each of their identifying features, look at where you’re most likely to find one, their diet, and talk about how to draw them into your garden.
In the end, you’ll have a much better idea of what you’ve just seen and how to encourage them to your own home.
American Tree Sparrow
Let’s start by looking at the most common species of Sparrow in North America.
The American Tree Sparrow is most likely the bird that comes to mind when somebody asks you to think of a Sparrow.
It has brown feathers all over its upper parts, which follow down to its long tail. It also has a rust-orange cap, gray face, and rust-orange line that runs horizontally across each eye.
In terms of size, the American Tree Sparrow measures around 5.5-inches in length and has an average wingspan of 9-inches.
While they are a common sight throughout North America, it may surprise you to learn that the American Tree Sparrow is a migratory bird to the United States.
It spends spring and summer in Canada for breeding and then heads South to the U.S for winter.
They set up their winter nests in almost every State. The only place where you’re very unlikely to spot an American Tree Sparrow is the Gulf Coast and the Pacific Coast.
This little bird constructs its nest either on or close to the ground and uses a mixture of grass, twigs, and moss to build and line it.
Once ready, the female American Tree Sparrow lays up to 6 eggs and spends around two weeks incubating them.
The American Tree Sparrow lives in small flocks for safety and also feeds in this way.
This is why it’s not unusual to see up to 20 of these birds gathered together. They also don’t spend very much time in the air or in trees, choosing to feed by foraging on the ground.
It’s pretty easy to attract American Tree Sparrows to your garden as they aren’t particularly fussy eaters.
Simply fill your feeders with a mixture of suet, nuts, sunflower seeds, or nyjer seeds, and they’ll turn up in no time.
They’ll also do some cleaning for you, picking up any seeds that have been knocked onto the floor from bigger birds visiting your feeders!
While most Sparrows are brown, the White-Crowned Sparrow sports gray feathers across most of its body.
The only exception is their wings, which are light brown feathers tipped with white. They also have a namesake white crown that runs vertically from the top of their beak to the top of their neck.
Migratory birds. The White-Crowned Sparrow spends the breeding season in Arctic Canada and Alaska before heading towards Southern States and Mexico for winter.
Depending on the temperature, however, some may stay further North all year round.
The best place to spot a White-Crowned Sparrow is in forest edges, weedy fields, and along the side of the road.
Here, they forage for grass, weed seeds, and fruits and berries such as blackberries and elderberries.
Characteristic of most species of Sparrow, the White-Crowned Sparrow builds its nest either on or close to the ground.
This nest is constructed from twigs, moss, pine needles, and grass. Once built, the female White-Crowned Sparrow lays up to 7 eggs and spends two weeks incubating them.
Once hatched, the couple will take turns feeding them, and they’ll be ready to fledge in around 9 days.
Interestingly, however, once they have left the nest, young White-Crowned Sparrows will spend around a week living on the ground before they learn how to fly.
If you’d like to entice White-Crowned Sparrows into your backyard, make sure you fill your feeders and bird table with sunflower seeds. These seem to be a particular favorite for this beautiful little bird.
With their distinctive, namesake black throat and bright-white eye stripe on either side of their gray head, the Black-Throated Sparrow is one of the easiest-to-recognize species in North America.
The rest of their body is pale gray, measuring around 5-inches in length with an average wingspan of 7-inches.
You’re most likely to spot a Black-Throated Sparrow in the Southern States, although some venture further North in the spring and summer.
Those that do, however, will always return South for winter, sometimes setting up home as far down as Mexico.
The Black-Throated Sparrow’s preferred habitat is desert scrubs and canyons.
This offers them plenty of open space to hunt insects on the wing during spring and summer and loads of ripe seeds to peck away at during the fall and winter.
Interestingly, during the summer, the Black-Throated Sparrow doesn’t drink any water at all. Instead, they get all their water intake from the insects they eat.
They also build their nests in low shrubs within these areas, constructing them from desert plant material and animal hair, and forging them into a cup shape.
Once ready, the female Black-Throated Sparrow lays up to 5 eggs and incubates them for two weeks.
Once hatched, the mating couple will care for them for 10 days before they fledge.
To attract the Black-Throated Sparrow to your garden, you first need to ensure that you live in the right area.
If you’re deep in the rural countryside, you’re unlikely to encounter one given their preferred desert habitat.
If you live close enough to this environment, filling your feeders with black sunflower seeds should be enough to draw them in.
The White-Throated Sparrow has clear identifiers that make it pretty easy to spot. The first is the three pure-white lines that run vertically across their head.
They also have a bright-yellow patch above each eye and, of course, their namesake white throat.
The rest of their body is covered with pale gray feathers apart from the wings, which are brown with black streaks.
Migratory birds, the White-Throated Sparrow spends the breeding season in Canada before heading to the United States for winter.
It is especially abundant in the Pacific Coast, Southern, and the Eastern States during the winter.
Their preferred habitat is mixed woodlands and forests, where they live in large flocks for safety and protection.
In this habitat, the female White-Throated Sparrow is responsible for constructing the nest, which she builds from twigs and moss, and is lined with soft materials such as animal hair and grass.
The White-Throated Sparrow’s chosen habitat also provides them plenty of food to eat, including insects and fruits. They are also relatively easy to draw into your garden.
All you need to do is fill your feeders with a buffet of options, including sunflower seeds and millet.
You stand a greater chance of enticing them if you plant certain fruit bushes, such as blackberry, blueberry, and grapes.
As you may have guessed from their name, the Clay-Colored Sparrow is colored with brown, clay-colored feathers.
This can make it quite challenging to tell apart from other species, but it does have a few identifying features. The first is the series of white stripes that run vertically across its head.
It also has a gray collar around the entire of its throat, and its tail is notched at the end.
If you live in the Northern Prairies, you have a greater chance of spotting a Clay-Colored Sparrow as it is the most abundant species in this area during the summer.
Come winter, they head further South to Mexico and Texas.
Their preferred habitat is shrubland, and they construct their nests in dense vegetation near the ground.
The female is solely responsible for building the nest and will construct it from grasses, twigs, and animal hair. Once happy with her work, she’ll lay up to 5 eggs and spend two weeks incubating.
Once hatched, the young Clay-Colored Sparrows are usually ready to fledge in around 10 days.
The Clay-Colored Sparrow feeds almost exclusively on insects during the summer. Come winter, they rely on seeds and fruit to help them survive.
You can encourage them to your garden by ensuring you have laid out various seeds, suet, and nuts. If you plant fruiting bushes, you also have a better chance of a Clay-Colored Sparrow visiting your garden.
The Chipping Sparrow is a slender bird that measures around 6-inches in length and has an average wingspan of 8-inches.
Its rust-brown colored cap and the white strip that runs horizontally above each eye are easier to identify. They also have a black eye stripe that runs straight across each eye.
The rest of its body is covered with pale gray feathers, and the wings are dark brown and marked with black.
They spend their summer in Canada and the Northern States for breeding. Here, they set up homes in woodlands and parks with plenty of trees for cover.
The female will construct the nest close to the ground from plant roots and dry grass, creating a fundamental framework, and then lay up to 7 eggs.
Come winter, the Chipping Sparrow heads further South to the warmer temperatures of Florida and Mexico.
They’ll set up home in the same habitat of parks and woodlands, although they have also been known to roost in backyards. Some will also remain in these areas all year round.
Throughout the summer months, the Chipping Sparrow feasts on a diet of insects.
During winter, they will turn to seeds and fruits instead. It’s pretty easy to encourage Chipping Sparrows into your backyard.
All you need to do is make sure you’re offering enough of a variety of seeds, with their particular favorites being sunflower seeds and cracked corn.
Next time you spot a small bird hopping around the ground in your backyard, local park, or woodland, take a moment to open up this list.
You may have just spotted a species of Sparrow that you’ve never seen before! Even better, why not try following our advice on what to offer them in your bird feeders?
Do this, and you won’t need to leave your home to spot these beautiful birds.