Lincoln’s and Other Sparrows for The Birds of America
Sparrows: Good Things Come in Small Packages
Generally, sparrows tend to be small, plump brown-grey birds with short tails and stubby, powerful beaks. The differences between sparrow species can be subtle. Although they are primarily seed-eaters, they also consume small insects. A few species scavenge for food around cities and, like gulls and pigeons, will happily eat virtually anything in small quantities. Sparrows are physically similar to other seed-eating birds, such as finches, but have a vestigial dorsal outer primary feather and an extra bone in the tongue. The Old World true sparrows are indigenous to Europe, Africa and Asia. In Australia and the Americas, early settlers imported some species which quickly naturalized, particularly in urban and degraded areas. House Sparrows, for example, are now found throughout North America, in every state of Australia except Western Australia, and over much of the heavily populated parts of South America. American sparrows, or New World sparrows, are in a different family, Emberizidae, despite some physical resemblance to their European cousins, such as the seed-eater's bill and frequently well-marked heads.