22 Sparrows in Illinois (With Pictures)

22 Sparrows in Illinois (With Pictures)

Illinois, a state with diverse ecosystems, is a haven for birdwatchers, especially those interested in sparrows. This article explores the world of sparrows in Illinois, highlighting their varied habitats from bustling cities to tranquil rural areas. With over 20 species making their home in the state, each sparrow species offers unique insights into the adaptability and richness of avian life.

Understanding their behaviours, migrations, and conservation status not only enhances birdwatching experiences but also emphasizes the importance of protecting these charming, yet often overlooked, members of the bird community.

1. Song Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Melospiza melodia
  • Life span: 2-7 years
  • Size: 5.5-7 in / 14-18 cm
  • Weight: 0.8-1.4 oz / 22-40 g
  • Wingspan: 9.1-9.8 in / 23-25 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

Embodied with a melodic charm, the Song Sparrow is a delightful presence in brushy fields and wetlands across North America. Their plumage is a testament to nature’s artistry, featuring a mottled brown pattern that seamlessly blends with the underbrush.

Notably, their chest is adorned with a distinctive central spot, akin to a medallion. This species’ geographical range is vast, extending from the dense forests of Alaska to the sun-kissed fields of California, reflecting their adaptability to diverse habitats.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrows nest in a variety of habitats but prefer dense shrubbery near water. Their nests, often low to the ground, are made of grass and lined with finer materials. Typically, they lay 3 to 5 eggs and may have multiple broods per season.

Primarily insectivores, Song Sparrows feed on a variety of insects and spiders. During winter, their diet shifts to include more seeds and fruit, demonstrating seasonal adaptability in their feeding habits.

Song Sparrows are widespread and abundant across North America. Their populations are stable, and they are not currently a conservation concern. However, habitat preservation, especially wetland protection, is crucial to maintaining healthy populations.

2. House Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Passer domesticus
  • Life span: 3-5 years
  • Size: 5.5-6.3 in / 14-16 cm
  • Weight: 1.1-1.4 oz / 30-40 g
  • Wingspan: 7.9-9.1 in / 20-23 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The House Sparrow, a familiar sight in many urban and rural areas, showcases a mix of earthy hues in its plumage. Males typically exhibit a striking combination of gray crown, white cheeks, and a bold black bib, creating a distinct and recognizable appearance.

Females and juveniles tend to have more subdued colouring, with overall shades of brown and gray, marked by subtle streaks and a less contrasting pattern. This bird has adapted remarkably to human-altered environments and can be found across various continents, thriving in close proximity to human settlements.

House Sparrow

Displaying a remarkable aptitude for adaptation, House Sparrows exhibit versatile nesting habits. Their untidy abodes can be found in diverse spots, ranging from tree hollows and birdhouses to even man-made structures, a testament to their opportunistic tendencies.

As opportunistic feeders, they boast a diverse palate. While seeds and grains constitute their primary sustenance, their culinary exploits encompass scavenging for food remnants, insects, and even petite vertebrates.

Originally introduced from Europe, House Sparrows have triumphed in both urban and agricultural settings. Yet, their abundance is paralleled by concerns regarding their aggressive interactions with native birds and competition for nesting sites, raising alarms for the conservation of indigenous species.

3. Swamp Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Melospiza georgiana
  • Life span: 2-4 years
  • Size: 5.5-6.3 in / 14-16 cm
  • Weight: 0.7-1.2 oz / 20-35 g
  • Wingspan: 8.7-9.1 in / 22-23 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The Swamp Sparrow, an elusive inhabitant of marshy wetlands, is a study in subtle beauty. It dons a rusty cap, which contrasts with its gray face and a clean white throat, creating a serene yet striking appearance.

Their back and wings are intricately patterned with browns and blacks, enabling them to blend seamlessly into their preferred reedy habitats. These sparrows are predominantly found in the eastern United States, where they nest in dense vegetation near water bodies.

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrows build nests in wetland areas, often close to or even on the ground, concealed in dense vegetation. They use grasses and sedges, lining their nests with fine materials. Typically, they lay 3 to 5 eggs per clutch.

These sparrows feed mainly on insects and small aquatic invertebrates during the breeding season. In the winter, they switch to seeds and other plant material, showcasing dietary flexibility according to season.

Swamp Sparrows are not currently a major conservation concern, but they rely on wetland habitats, which are susceptible to pollution and development. Conservation efforts focus on wetland preservation and restoration.

4. Dark-eyed Junco

  • Scientific name: Junco hyemalis
  • Life span: 3-7 years
  • Size: 5.5-6.3 in / 14-16 cm
  • Weight: 0.7-1.1 oz / 20-30 g
  • Wingspan: 7.5-9.8 in / 19-25 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and common

The Dark-eyed Junco, a small but striking bird, presents a charming contrast with its slate-gray or brown plumage and a sharp white belly. This bird is renowned for its adaptability, inhabiting a range that includes much of North America, from coniferous forests to suburban areas. During winter, they often flock to feeders, bringing a flurry of activity and a touch of wild beauty to backyards across the continent.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco’s nest close to the ground, often under bushes or between rocks. Their nests are made from twigs and leaves, strategically placed for protection.

In winter, their diet consists primarily of seeds. During other seasons, insects become a significant part of their diet, showcasing their dietary flexibility.

This species is adaptable and has maintained stable populations despite environmental changes. Conservation efforts focus on preserving diverse habitats to support their needs throughout the year.

5. White-throated Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Zonotrichia albicollis
  • Life span: 5-10 years
  • Size: 6.3-7.5 in / 16-19 cm
  • Weight: 0.9-1.3 oz / 25-38 g
  • Wingspan: 8.7-9.8 in / 22-25 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and common

Adorned with a bold white throat patch and a striking head pattern of black and white stripes, the White-throated Sparrow is a charming sight in North American woodlands. Its soft gray breast and brown-streaked back complete its distinctive appearance.

This species is known for its vast range, inhabiting forested areas from Canada to the southern United States, depending on the season. The sweet, whistled song of this bird is a quintessential sound of eastern forests, particularly in the cooler months.

White-throated Sparrow

Nesting mainly on or near the ground in wooded areas, White-throated Sparrows use grasses and twigs for their nests. They typically have 3 to 5 eggs per clutch.

Their diet consists of seeds, fruits, and insects. They are adaptable feeders, foraging both on the ground and in trees and shrubs.

These sparrows are common and not currently considered a conservation concern. Efforts to preserve forest habitats are beneficial for their populations.

6. American Tree Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Spizelloides arborea
  • Life span: 2-6 years
  • Size: 5.9 in / 15 cm
  • Weight: 0.6-1.0 oz / 18-28 g
  • Wingspan: 7.9-9.1 in / 20-23 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and common

The American Tree Sparrow, with its rusty cap and gray face, exudes a gentle charm. Its bi-coloured bill and a small dark spot on its unstreaked breast are notable features. Inhabiting open woodlands and scrubby areas, this sparrow’s range spans the northern United States and Canada, particularly during the winter months.

Their tinkling, sweet calls add a melodic element to their chilly habitats.

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrows breed in the Arctic and winter in Illinois. Their nests, made of grass and lined with feathers, are built to withstand extreme cold.

While in Illinois, their diet is mostly seeds and berries, shifting to include insects in the summer. This reflects their ability to adapt to different food sources.

Conservation for this migratory bird involves protecting habitats along their migratory route. In Illinois, maintaining suitable wintering grounds is a key focus.

7. Chipping Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Spizella passerina
  • Life span: 4-5 years
  • Size: 4.7-5.9 in / 12-15 cm
  • Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz / 12-18 g
  • Wingspan: 7.9-9.1 in / 20-23 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common –

The Chipping Sparrow, a sprightly little bird, is easily recognized by its rusty cap and crisp white underparts. Its black eye line and grayish back with subtle streaks add to its neat appearance.

This bird’s range is extensive, encompassing woodlands, gardens, and parks across North America. Known for its persistent and sharp ‘chip’ calls, this sparrow adds a lively soundtrack to its habitats, particularly during the breeding season.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrows build nests in trees or shrubs, often near human dwellings. They use materials like grass, twigs, and hair, forming a sturdy structure for their young.

They primarily eat seeds and insects, with a notable preference for grass seeds and small beetles. Their foraging habits are important for seed dispersal and insect control.

Environmental regulations, particularly regarding pesticide use, have helped the Chipping Sparrow population recover. Continued focus on habitat preservation is essential for their sustainability.

8. Eastern Towhee

  • Scientific name: Pipilo erythrophthalmus
  • Life span: 6-9 years
  • Size: 7.1-9.1 in / 18-23 cm
  • Weight: 1.1-1.8 oz / 31-52 g
  • Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in / 25-30 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The Eastern Towhee is a striking bird with a black (in males) or chocolate-brown (in females) upper body contrasting sharply with its white belly. Its bright red eyes and sides add a dash of color to its bold plumage.

These towhees inhabit brushy areas across the eastern United States, where their rich, melodious calls and energetic foraging in the underbrush enliven the landscape.

Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhees build nests either on the ground or in low bushes, using twigs, leaves, and stems. Their nests are sturdy and well-constructed, providing safety for their eggs and chicks.

Omnivorous, they eat insects, fruits, and seeds. Their foraging habit of rustling through leaf litter is both effective for finding food and indicative of their presence in an area.

The primary challenge for Eastern Towhees is habitat fragmentation. Conservation efforts include preserving and restoring woodland habitats to support their populations.

9. Field Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Spizella pusilla
  • Life span: 4-6 years
  • Size: 4.7-5.5 in / 12-14 cm
  • Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz / 12-18 g
  • Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in / 19-22 cm
  • Status: Least Concern

The Field Sparrow, with its warm rufous cap and clear, buffy breast, exudes a soft, rustic charm. This small sparrow’s gentle face, accented with a pink bill, adds to its endearing quality. Inhabiting brushy fields and open woodlands across eastern and central North America, its sweet, whistled song is a quintessential sound of the countryside.

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrows choose brushy fields and open woodlands for nesting. Their nests, made of grass and occasionally animal hair, are usually built on the ground or in low shrubs.

Their diet includes seeds and insects, especially grass seeds and small arthropods. Their foraging habits contribute to seed dispersal and insect population control.

The primary threat to Field Sparrows is habitat loss due to development and agriculture. Conservation strategies include protecting and restoring their natural habitats to ensure their sustainability in Illinois’s landscape.

10. Savannah Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Passerculus sandwichensis
  • Life span: 3-7 years
  • Size: 5.5-6.7 in / 14-17 cm
  • Weight: 0.5-0.9 oz / 14-26 g
  • Wingspan: 7.9-9.4 in / 20-24 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The Savannah Sparrow, a dainty and agile bird, exhibits a delightful array of brown and yellow hues. Its streaked back, whitish belly, and a yellowish flick above the eyes give it a distinctive look.

These sparrows favour open spaces like grasslands and marshes across North America, with a range extending from Alaska to the southern United States. Their presence is often noted by their buzzy, insect-like song, echoing across their vast habitats.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrows in Illinois build nests primarily on the ground, hidden in grasses. They use local materials like grass and sometimes animal hair to form a cup-shaped structure for their eggs.

This sparrow mainly feeds on insects and seeds. Their diet includes spiders, beetles, and various grass seeds, reflecting their adaptability to local food sources.

The Savannah Sparrow faces challenges from habitat loss, especially in grassland areas. Conservation efforts are focused on preserving and restoring these habitats to support their population.

11. Grasshopper Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Ammodramus savannarum
  • Life span: 2-4 years
  • Size: 4.7-5.5 in / 12-14 cm
  • Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz / 12-18 g
  • Wingspan: 6.3-7.9 in / 16-20 cm
  • Status: Near Threatened
  • State status: Breeding and uncommon

With a subdued palette of browns and tans, the Grasshopper Sparrow is a master of camouflage in its grassland habitat. This small sparrow, with its flat head and unassuming appearance, can be challenging to spot.

They inhabit grasslands across much of North America, where their insect-like, buzzing songs often give away their presence in otherwise quiet fields.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrows nest on the ground in open fields, camouflaging their nests among the grasses. They use local materials to blend their nests with the surrounding environment.

Their diet is comprised of insects and seeds, with a preference for grasshoppers and crickets. Their hunting style is efficient, helping control insect populations in grasslands.

The biggest threat to this species is habitat loss from agricultural development. Efforts are aimed at conserving and restoring prairie habitats to support their populations.

12. Henslow’s Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Ammodramus henslowii
  • Life span: 1-3 years
  • Size: 4.7-5.5 in / 12-14 cm
  • Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz / 12-18 g
  • Wingspan: 6.7-7.9 in / 17-20 cm
  • Status: Near Threatened
  • State status: Breeding and rare

Henslow’s Sparrow is a shy, elusive bird, with an olive-green head and a beautifully streaked, buffy-orange breast.

Preferring tall grass prairies and meadows, this sparrow’s range is primarily in the eastern and central United States. Its short, insect-like song often goes unnoticed, mirroring the bird’s secretive nature in its grassland home.

Henslow’s Sparrow

Henslow’s Sparrows nest in tall grasses, often in small depressions on the ground. Their nests are camouflaged with surrounding vegetation, making them hard to spot.

Their diet mainly includes insects and seeds, with a preference for grasshoppers. They play a crucial role in controlling insect populations in their grassland habitats.

This species is of conservation concern due to habitat loss from agriculture and development. Protecting and restoring native grasslands is critical for their survival.

13. Nelson’s Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Ammospiza nelsoni
  • Life span: 2-3 years
  • Size: 4.7-5.5 in / 12-14 cm
  • Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz / 12-18 g
  • Wingspan: 6.7-7.5 in / 17-19 cm
  • Status: Near Threatened
  • State status: Migratory and uncommon

Nelson’s Sparrow presents an understated yet captivating beauty with its subtle orange-brown face and streaked, grayish back. This elusive bird, often heard before it’s seen, thrives in salt marshes and wet meadows of the northern and central United States, especially along the Atlantic coast and the Midwest. Its inconspicuous nature is matched by its soft, reedy call, echoing subtly through its marshy habitats.

Nelson’s Sparrow

Nelson’s Sparrow nests in marshy areas, using reeds and grasses to create a well-hidden nest above water. They are adept at building nests that withstand the wet conditions.

They feed on a mix of seeds and insects, displaying a preference for aquatic insects and seeds found in their marshy habitats.

Threats to Nelson’s Sparrow include wetland destruction and climate change. Conservation strategies involve protecting and restoring marshlands, which are essential for their breeding and feeding.

14. Lark Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Chondestes grammacus
  • Life span: 4-6 years
  • Size: 5.9-6.7 in / 15-17 cm
  • Weight: 0.7-1.1 oz / 20-31 g
  • Wingspan: 9.1-10.2 in / 23-26 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and uncommon

The Lark Sparrow is instantly recognizable by its striking head pattern, with bold chestnut, black, and white markings. Its richly streaked back and long, rounded tail add to its distinctive appearance.

Inhabiting open fields and prairies across much of North America, this sparrow’s melodious and rich song is a highlight of its presence, adding a lyrical quality to its environment.

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrows typically nest on the ground or low in bushes in open, grassy areas. They use grass and fine twigs to construct their nests, which are often well-camouflaged.

Their diet consists of seeds and insects, including beetles and caterpillars. Their foraging behaviour is efficient and contributes to the ecological balance of their habitats.

Lark Sparrows face challenges from habitat degradation, mainly due to land development. Conservation initiatives focus on maintaining open, grassy habitats for their survival.

15. Vesper Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Pooecetes gramineus
  • Life span: 2-5 years
  • Size: 5.9 in / 15 cm
  • Weight: 5.9 in / 15 cm
  • Wingspan: 8.7-9.8 in / 22-25 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

Gracing open fields and meadows, the Vesper Sparrow is a picture of rustic elegance. It exhibits a pale brown plumage with darker streaks, a white belly, and a distinctive white eye-ring that imparts a keen, alert look.

A unique feature is the white outer tail feathers, conspicuously visible in flight. This bird’s range covers a broad swath of North America, particularly favouring grasslands and agricultural areas, where its song can often be heard at twilight, adding a serene soundtrack to the landscape.

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrows nest on the ground, usually in grassy or open areas. They construct their nests with grasses, and these are often well-hidden. They lay about 3 to 5 eggs per brood.

Their diet includes a mix of insects and seeds. They forage on the ground, often in flocks during non-breeding seasons, showing adaptability in both diet and foraging behaviour.

While generally not endangered, Vesper Sparrows face threats from habitat loss due to agricultural practices. Efforts to conserve their habitat and promote sustainable farming practices are vital for their preservation.

16. Harris’s Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Zonotrichia querula
  • Life span: 4-5 years
  • Size: 6.7-7.5 in / 17-19 cm
  • Weight: 1.2-1.5 oz / 34-43 g
  • Wingspan: 10.6-11.8 in / 27-30 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and rare

The Harris’s Sparrow is a distinguished winter visitor, primarily found in the central United States, though it breeds in the remote tundra of Canada. This bird is the only sparrow that breeds exclusively in Canada. It boasts a striking appearance, characterized by its black bib and forehead, contrasting beautifully with its gray cheeks and brownish wings.

Harris’s Sparrow

Harris’s Sparrows nest in Canada’s northern tundra, building hidden nests in dense shrubbery. Their remote nesting sites offer protection and seclusion for raising their young.

In Illinois, these sparrows mainly consume seeds, using their strong beaks for cracking them. They occasionally eat insects, demonstrating dietary flexibility during their winter stay.

Conservation of Harris’s Sparrows involves protecting habitats along their migratory paths, including wintering areas in Illinois. Efforts are focused on habitat preservation to ensure the sustainability of their annual migration.

17. White-crowned Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Zonotrichia leucophrys
  • Life span: 6-13 years
  • Size: 6.7-7.9 in / 17-20 cm
  • Weight: 0.9-1.4 oz / 26-40 g
  • Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in / 25-30 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and common

The White-crowned Sparrow, with its striking black and white striped head, is a study in avian sophistication. This bird’s clean gray breast and brown streaked back further accentuate its elegant head pattern.

It’s a migratory species, with a range that spans across North America, from the Arctic tundra in the summer to the southern United States in the winter. Their presence is often announced by their clear, sweet whistles, a delightful sound in their various habitats, including brushy areas and forest edges.

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrows build their nests in shrubs or on the ground in well-concealed locations. They use grasses and twigs and lay 3 to 5 eggs.

These sparrows feed on seeds, fruits, and insects, showing varied dietary preferences. They forage on the ground in scrubby and wooded areas.

White-crowned Sparrows are widespread and not currently at risk. Conservation efforts are focused on maintaining their natural habitats and monitoring population trends.

18. Lincoln’s Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Melospiza lincolnii
  • Life span: 3-5 years
  • Size: 4.7-5.9 in / 12-15 cm
  • Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz / 12-18 g
  • Wingspan: 7.1-7.9 in / 18-20 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and common

Lincoln’s Sparrow, a modestly adorned bird, offers a glimpse of understated elegance. Its fine, crisp streaks on a buffy background, a subtle buffy wash across the breast, and a gray face create a harmonious blend of colors.

Preferring dense shrubbery and moist thickets, this bird’s range spans across much of North America, particularly during migration. Its sweet, musical trill is a distinctive feature, adding a melodic touch to its surroundings.

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrows nest in dense shrubbery, creating nests from twigs, grass, and moss. These nests are typically well-hidden, offering protection to their eggs and chicks.

Their diet consists of insects and seeds, with a preference for caterpillars and beetles. They play a significant role in controlling insect populations in their habitats.

Conservation for Lincoln’s Sparrow involves preserving forest and shrubland areas. Their populations are relatively stable, but habitat preservation remains important.

19. Fox Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Passerella iliaca
  • Life span: 3-6 years
  • Size: 6.7-7.9 in / 17-20 cm
  • Weight: 1.4-1.8 oz / 40-52 g
  • Wingspan: 10.2-11.8 in / 26-30 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and common

The Fox Sparrow is a robust bird with rich, reddish-brown plumage, reminiscent of autumn leaves. Its heavily streaked underparts and thick bill give it a sturdy appearance. These sparrows are widespread, inhabiting dense thickets and forest edges across North America, particularly during migration.

Their presence is often heralded by a vigorous scratching in the leaf litter as they forage, adding a sense of vitality to the forest floor.

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrows are infrequent nesters in Illinois, choosing thick underbrush or dense shrubbery when they do. Their nests are well-hidden, reflecting their elusive nature.

Their diet includes insects and seeds, and they are known for a unique “double-scratching” foraging technique that helps them uncover food under leaf litter.

Due to their sporadic nesting, conserving the Fox Sparrow in Illinois focuses on preserving large, undisturbed land areas to encourage their breeding.

20. Clay-coloured Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Spizella pallida
  • Life span: 4-7 years
  • Size: 4.7-5.9 in / 12-15 cm
  • Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz / 12-20 g
  • Wingspan: 7.1-7.9 in / 18-20 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and uncommon

The Clay-coloured Sparrow’s subtle beauty lies in its soft, buffy-gray plumage, marked by a distinct pale stripe over its crown. This small sparrow favours the open shrublands and grasslands of central North America.

Its buzzy, insect-like song is distinctive, echoing through its habitat during the breeding season, adding a unique soundscape to the prairies.

Clay-coloured Sparrow

Clay-coloured Sparrows nest in low shrubs or trees, using grass and fine twigs to construct a cup-shaped nest. They choose sites that offer protection and good visibility.

They feed on seeds and insects, adapting their diet according to seasonal availability. This flexibility is important for their survival in varying environments.

The Clay-coloured Sparrow faces habitat loss due to agricultural expansion. Conservationists are working to protect shrublands and prairies, essential for their nesting and feeding.

21. Eurasian Tree Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Passer montanus
  • Life span: 3 years
  • Size: 12.5–14 cm (4.9–5.5 inches)
  • Weight: 18–25 g (0.63–0.88 oz)
  • Wingspan: 20–22 cm (7.9–8.7 inches)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Introduced and uncommon

The Eurasian Tree Sparrow, an elegant relative of the familiar House Sparrow, sports a rich chestnut crown and nape, complemented by a distinctive black cheek spot. This bird’s underparts are a lighter, unmarked shade, creating a neat and tidy appearance.

Widely distributed across Europe and Asia, it adapts well to both urban and rural settings.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow

An introduced species, the Eurasian Tree Sparrow nests in tree cavities or buildings. They adaptively use materials like grass, feathers, and twigs for nest building.

This species feeds on seeds, fruits, and insects, showing great adaptability to urban environments and varied food sources.

As a non-native species, conservation efforts focus on understanding its impact on local ecosystems and native bird populations in Illinois.

22. LeConte’s Sparrow

  • Scientific name: Ammospiza leconteii
  • Life span: 2-3 years
  • Size: 4.3-5.1 in / 11-13 cm
  • Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz / 12-18 g
  • Wingspan: 5.9-6.7 in / 15-17 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and uncommon

LeConte’s Sparrow, a petite and elusive bird, boasts a unique orange-buff face and fine streaking on its nape and back. Preferring dense grasslands and wet meadows, its range extends across the northern United States and into Canada.

The bird’s subtle, insect-like song often goes unheard, contributing to its mysterious aura in its hidden grassy realms.

LeConte’s Sparrow

LeConte’s Sparrows build their nests in dense, wet meadows, often just above water level. They use fine grasses to weave a nest that blends in with the wetland environment.

Their diet is predominantly seeds and insects, with a preference for small beetles and grass seeds. They are adept foragers in their wetland habitats.

This species is vulnerable due to the loss of wetland and meadow habitats. Conservation efforts are centered on preserving and restoring these crucial environments.

Where to find Sparrows in Illinois

Illinois, sparrows can be found in a variety of habitats including urban areas, parks, gardens, and rural fields. To spot them, it’s best to visit areas with abundant vegetation or bird feeders, as sparrows are often attracted to seeds.

Early morning is usually the best time for birdwatching, as sparrows are more active during this time. Four good areas in Illinois for observing sparrows include:

  • Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago
  • Starved Rock State Park, Utica
  • Mississippi Palisades State Park, Savanna
  • Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Wilmington

These locations offer diverse environments, increasing the likelihood of observing various sparrow specie


Sparrows in Illinois offer a captivating glimpse into the state’s rich avian diversity. From urban gardens to rural prairies, these resilient birds thrive across various habitats.

Birdwatchers can enjoy observing different species, each with unique characteristics, underscoring the importance of conservation efforts to maintain this integral part of Illinois’ natural tapestry.

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