Bird Database

Song Sparrow

(Melospiza melodia)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance




Predation, Collisions

Conservation Actions

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Song Sparrow

(Melospiza melodia)

The Song Sparrow is the quintessential “streaky” sparrow in the state, the one against the others should be compared when learning to identify this sometimes-tricky group of birds. The most commonly confused pairing is Song versus Savannah Sparrow, especially in fall when multiple species mix together in grassy and weedy areas. In most comparisons, the Song is darker and more boldly-streaked than the Savannah, and lacks a yellow area between the eye and the bill. Some juvenile sparrows (e.g., Swamp) are also streaked, but with practice it becomes easier and easier to tell them all apart.

One reason the Song Sparrow is the default is because it uses a wide range of habitats. Almost every wetland or shrubby edge in New Hampshire is likely home to a Song Sparrow at some point during the year, making it arguably the most common sparrow in the state. They are equally at home in suburban yards, old fields, regenerating timber harvests, and forest openings. In winter they tend to avoid the more forested end of this spectrum, and become more common in the vicinity of people, including visiting bird feeders. Song Sparrow populations declined in the 1970s across much of the Northeast but have been remarkably stable since, a pattern that holds in both summer and winter.

Much of what we know about this species comes from detailed observations made by Margaret Morse Nice, who spent eight years studying the sparrows near her Ohio home in the 1930s. Ornithology at this time was largely the domain of men, most of whom were still focused on collecting birds and documenting their distributions. Her work on the Song Sparrow was thus an important shift towards how we study birds today and is often touted as foundational to the modern practice of ornithology.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Song Sparrow
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count