Lincoln's Sparrow

Scientific Name: Melospiza lincolnii

Pictures: (click for larger images)

So cute!  This wily little Lincoln's Sparrow was one of a pair who were hanging out in the UCLA Botanical Garden on 1/22/06.  Photo by Jason Finley.
Thanks to Bobby Walsh, whose "Pishing" lured this guy onto a branch where I managed to get a line of sight to him!  1/22/06.  Photo by Jason Finley.
One of the two Lincoln's Sparrows, earlier the same day.  This guy was perched on a little post right next to the stream and was basically going berserk for a minute or so.  1/22/06.  Photo by Jason Finley.
Showing off its fat head.  1/22/06.  Photo by Jason Finley.
Lincoln's Sparrow Illustration.  "Buffy" means creamy-light-tan.

-Illustration by Robert C. Stebbins from "Birds of the Campus" (1947) by Dr. Loye Miller.

Description: Small.  5.5" in length (beak to tail), barely smaller than a House Sparrow.  Brown, fine dark streaks on chest, stripes on head, thin beak.  (See Notes below)

Sound: "A rich, gurgling, wren-like song rising in the middle and dropping abruptly at the end." (  Listen to a Lincoln's Sparrow singing and calling!  Link is to the sound page for this bird from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds.

Commonality/Seasonality: Rare, and generally Winter only (resident, about October - April, and migrating through this area in late March).

Location: The only place I've seen them is in the Botanical Garden.  They like to be near streams and dense cover.  They especially like tall (uncut) grass.

Notes: This is about the rarest bird you can hope to see at UCLA (along maybe with the Wrentit).  Easily confused with the Song Sparrow (especially juvenile Song Sparrows), The Lincoln's can be distinguished by its finer chest stripes (that look like they were drawn with a pencil rather than a crayon) and some tan/cream color ("buffy") between the stripes where the Song Sparrows have only white.  Song Sparrows also typically have a big dark spot on their chests.  The Lincoln's Sparrows are very reclusive.  Their song is supposedly haunting, but we won't hear it here (see Loye Miller's note below).

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Birds of North America:

"Often considered among the more elusive of North America’s birds, the Lincoln’s Sparrow was first described by John James Audubon ('we found more wildness in this species than in any other inhabiting the same country'), who collected the type specimen during his Labrador expedition in 1833 and named it after his travel companion Thomas Lincoln."


This sparrow may pass through the campus every sring and not be discovered, for it is almost as shy as a field mouse.  Its very quiet little call was heard one March morning (March 15, 1931) in the sage just above the Arroyo bridge, and by close watching the bird was sighted for a moment.  We have no other record.  On reaching its summer home in the Sierra meadows, e.g., Sequoia Park, it blossoms out as a delightful singer that is easily approached.

-Miller, Loye.  "Birds of the Campus, University of California, Los Angeles," from University of California Syllabus Series, No. 300.  Text by Loye Miller, illustrations by Robert C. Stebbins.  Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947.



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