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Number of species: 80

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Field Sparrow - Spizella pusilla

Field Sparrows can usually be aged reliably through molt limits, although there may some intermediates in spring that are difficult to resolve. Although females are on average smaller and slightly duller in plumage, sex of most individuals is reliably determined only via brood patch / cloacal protuberance during the breeding season.

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 (but beware that some HY individuals may replace all rectrices in their preformative molt, so this feature is a less reliable indicator for AHY/ASY)
  • Examine the secondaries and primaries - most HY/SY birds have at least a few fresh and dark replaced inner secondaries (and sometimes also outer primaries) that contrast with the paler central wing feathers; on AHY/ASY birds the primaries and secondaries are uniform
  • Check the primary coverts - they are relatively narrow, pale, and lacking edging on HY/SY birds, but relatively broad, dark, and with rufous 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
Thumbnail - IS2-2810-94769-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-4786.jpg
Hatch year / Unknown
Some contrastingly pale juvenile feathers retained on the wing, and primary coverts lack distinct edging; narrow and tapered rectrices
Thumbnail - LG3-NA_1514-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-4000.jpg Thumbnail - LG3-NA_1514-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-4005.jpg Thumbnail - LG3-NA_1514-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-4003.jpg Thumbnail - LG3-NA_1514-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-4002.jpg Thumbnail - LG3-NA_1514-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-4001.jpg Thumbnail - LG3-NA_1514-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-4004.jpg

Thumbnail - IS2-2810-94785-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-4804.jpg Thumbnail - IS2-2810-94785-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-4803.jpg
After hatch year / Unknown
Wing largely uniform in colour and wear, with rufous edging to primary coverts; rectrices uniformly broad and rounded.
Thumbnail - MR3-2720-81442-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-2054.jpg Thumbnail - MR3-2720-81442-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-2056.jpg Thumbnail - MR3-2720-81442-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-2057.jpg Thumbnail - MR3-2720-81442-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-2055.jpg

Thumbnail - IS2-281094665-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-4521.jpg
After second year / Unknown
Wing largely uniform in colour and wear, with rufous edging to primary coverts; rectrices uniformly broad and rounded.
Thumbnail - MH3-NA_470-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-975.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-NA_470-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-974.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-NA_470-Spizella_pusilla_AOU_7_52-973.jpg

Additional age / sex class descriptions

The following additional age / sex class descriptions were found for this species:
Age / Sex   Age / Sex class description
Second year / Unknown Some contrastingly pale juvenile feathers retained on the wing, and primary coverts lack distinct edging; narrow and tapered rectrices
Number of species: 80

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