The gift of bird watching: American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow. Source:

When birders see a sparrow that they cannot identify, it is affectionately dismissed as a “little brown bird” or by shorthand, “LBB.”

This week’s Birding Gift, the American tree sparrow, is an easily identifiable bird and one of the most common sparrows around this time of year.

One of the first identifying field marks for sparrows is a streaked or unstreaked breast. American tree sparrows are unstreaked.

They also have a bull’s-eye, brown dot in the middle of their chest.

This bird has a chunky, gray face with a rusty cap and streak coming back from the eye.

They are one of the larger sparrows at 5.25 inches.

Usually they are together in flocks, many times with dark-eyed juncos.

When pished, the American tree sparrows tend to hop up to a higher perch, making them easy to view. Their winter call is a distinctive “pee-da-lee, pee-da-lee” done in rapid succession.

Mike Havlik is a naturalist in the Dallas County Conservation Department.


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