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Number of species: 80

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Lincoln's Sparrow - Melospiza lincolnii

Most Lincoln's Sparrows can be aged by plumage characteristics, but some intermediates are difficult to age in spring. Sex can be determined only by brood patch / cloacal protuberance during the breeding season.

Juvenile plumage is very similar to that of Song and Swamp Sparrows; Lincoln's Sparrow tends to have a proportionately longer wing and shorter tail, and a grayish (as opposed to yellowish) upper mouth lining

Quick Tips:

  • Look at the tail - uniformly narrow and pointed rectrices OR contrastingly fresh and broad central rectrices are indicative of HY/SY, while uniformly broad and more rounded rectrices are typical of AHY/ASY
  • In fall, look at the face - HY birds tend to have a more golden-beige face including a beige eye ring, whereas AHY birds are more grayish, sometimes incluing a gray eye ring.
  • Check the outer primary coverts - they are relatively narrow and pointed with minimal pale brown edging on HY/SY birds, and relatively broad and rounded with fairly distinct brown edging on AHY/ASY birds

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory

Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.
Age / Sex  Image sets 
Juvenile / Unknown
Relatively narrow primary coverts with minimal edging; narrow and tapered rectrices; golden-beige face; indistinct breast pattern.
Thumbnail - MG2-2351-48678-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1877.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2351-48678-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1879.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2351-48678-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1878.jpg
Date: Aug 24
Hatch year / Unknown
Variably distinct molt limit on wing showing a paler block of dull brown primary coverts, primaries, and secondaries (and some to all tertials); narrow and tapered rectrices, sometimes mixed with replaced (and broader) central rectrices; golden-beige face
Thumbnail - MG2-1851-88575-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1874.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1851-88575-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1876.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1851-88575-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1875.jpg
Date: Sep 16
After hatch year / Unknown
Wing largely uniform in colour and wear, with brown edging on broad and rounded primary coverts; broad and fairly rounded rectrices; gray-beige face
Thumbnail - MG2-2221-82041-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1868.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2221-82041-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1870.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2221-82041-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1869.jpg
Date: Sep 24
Second year / Unknown
Variably distinct molt limit on wing showing a paler block of dull brown primary coverts, primaries, and secondaries (and some to all tertials); narrow and tapered rectrices, sometimes mixed with replaced (and broader) central rectrices
Thumbnail - MG2-2401-97321-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1880.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2401-97321-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1882.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2401-97321-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1881.jpg
Date: May 13
After second year / Unknown
Wing largely uniform in colour and wear, with brown edging on broad and rounded primary coverts; broad and fairly rounded rectrices
Thumbnail - MG2-2221-20744-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1871.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2221-20744-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1873.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2221-20744-Melospiza_lincolnii_AOU_7_52-1872.jpg
Date: May 12
Number of species: 80

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