Small Brown Birds (with Pictures)

Last Updated on February 9, 2022 by Lily Aldrin

There are a lot of small brown birds that look the same. They may be sparrows, wrens, finches, or something else entirely. In the winter, you’ll commonly see them together. For beginner birdwatchers, distinguishing these LBBs can be extremely difficult. Wrens, finches, and sparrows, such as this Fox Sparrow, are colored to fit in with their surroundings.

The most common small brown birds are sparrows or wrens, but with so many distinct species, which one have you seen? This guide will assist you in identifying the small brown birds that you may encounter in your backyard or the woods and fields.

song sparrowSong sparrow
white crowned sparrowWhite-crowned sparrow
house finchHouse finch
brown headed cowbirdBrown-headed cowbird
golden crown sparrowGolden-crowned sparrow
white throated sparrowWhite-throated sparrow
american tree sparrowAmerican tree sparrow
house sparrowHouse sparrow
bewick wrenBewick's Wren
red winged blackbirdRed-winged blackbird
fox sparrowFox sparrow
female purple finchFemale purple finch
diamond firetailDiamond firetail
rufous fantailRufous fantail

Small Brown Birds

The small brown birds that you can find in your backyard and beyond are listed here. There are photos of the birds as well as info on how to recognize them. Brown birds are likely to be found on the list below, regardless of whether you’re looking for them.

1. Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow can be found in coastal Alaska and the United States’ mid-latitudes. Migratory species breed in the north, winter in the south, and migrate north into Mexico.


Song Sparrows prefer moist, shady environments. They can be found in marshes and backyards with huge bushes and hedges. Under bushes in gardens, hop on the ground. They do not form flocks in damp marshy areas, yet they can be abundant.


These sparrows have a rounded tail and a modest size. Its size and coloring vary greatly across its range. Some birds are light in color, while others are dark in color. With a pale brow line, the face is rather grey. A black line runs from the eye to the back of the head. A broad black stripe runs down the side of the white neck. The heavy streaking on the sides blends into a patch in the middle of the breast.

A chimp call is the most prevalent sound. The musical melody begins with a few small notes, a louder drawn-out buzz, and a final loose, jumbled trill (sung for much of the year, although not in the middle of winter).


Usually found on the ground under the feeder or seeking food under shrubs, hops around a lot in large platform feeders. Song sparrows consume the smaller seeds and fruit from your feeder. They switch to largely insect matter in the summer and may not visit your feeder.

2. White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Breed in Alaska and the western mountains as well as the Pacific Northwest lowlands and coastal California. Winter extends from the lower portion of the United States to Mexico. There are about five different types, each with a somewhat different song and plumage. The type found around the coast of California does not migrate.


Wintering White-crowned Sparrows forage on roadsides and lawns in dense brushy roadside tangles. White-crowned sparrows were hopping out of cover farther and farther till disturbed and scurrying back into the undergrowth to resume feeding.


These birds have a larger and slightly longer sparrow with a long tail. Brown striped back and wing on a grey body. Adults have a crown with a distinctive black and white striped pattern. Bill is yellow or pinkish in color. Immature’ crown stripes are replaced with buff and rufous in their first year, making them look a little dingier.


White-crowned Sparrows may be somewhat more likely to attend feeders in the West than in the East. They used feeders having a tray, such as a platform or hopper feeders. Their primary meals are millet and black oil sunflower seeds.

3. House Finch

House Finch

From southern Canada to Mexico, these birds can be found. Ranches and residential areas are where you’ll find it. Lowlands with brushy woods and openings are also present. Flocking and swooping down. These birds frequently perch in the summits of scrubby trees.


When startled, they fly up into the trees rather than down into the bushes, as most sparrows do. Nest in the vicinity of structures. This is the small brown bird that is most likely to visit your feeder.


These birds have a little brown bird with highly streaked underbelly in both sexes, with a small head and a thin build. Short wings and a long, slender tail with a slight notch near the end.

The brightest red is found on the forehead and rump of adult males. Males’ red color might vary from orange to yellowish depending on the individual. In tube feeders, House Finches love hulled sunflowers and black oil sunflower seeds.

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Male Cassin’s and Purple Finch males have pink or purple underpants that aren’t stripped, but male House Finch males have brown streaked sides. The head and face of female House Finches are relatively simple and unmarked. The other two birds’ light brows and lower faces curl over the brown ear covertly.

4. Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

Breeds south of the Arctic Circle in North America (unusual in Alaska). In the winter, birds migrate out of Canada and the inner West.


Brown-headed Cowbirds may be found in open fragmented forests, scattered pasturelands, and residential areas. They spend the winter months on feedlots and meadows. During the winter, Brewer’s Blackbird flocks may cluster in strip mall parking lots. Birds moving north are more likely to visit backyard bird feeders in the spring.


The male display comprises raising the head to the sky and fanning the wings and tail. Cowbirds lay eggs in the nests of smaller birds, who care for the young as if they were their own. These birds have a tiny blackbird with a potbellied appearance, a neck, and a short tail. These Sparrows have a flat head and a short, conical beak. Male Cowbirds have a brown head and a glossy black coat with a green iridescence.

Immature birds have a paler appearance and streaky underbelly. These delicate juvenile birds molt in the fall, revealing startlingly black patches of feathers.


At the bird feeder, he prefers millet to all other seeds.

5. Golden-crowned Sparrow

golden crown sparrow

The Breeding of these birds ranges from Alaska to British Columbia’s highlands. Winter is mostly spent along the West Coast, south to Baja, and in the interior of the West, near the Mexican border.


Golden-crowned Sparrows like brushy environments at the edges of woods, where they congregate in large flocks. They are hopping forage on the ground. When danger is detected, they flee for cover.


When compared to White-crowned Sparrows, this species is bigger. These birds have plump and long-tailed, with a huge head and a broad beak, a filthy gray-brown with deeper brown stripes on the back and wings, very dreary and drab.

Adults have a golden yellow head with black lateral crown stripes in breeding plumage. Immature has a bright yellow forehead and crown streaked with brown, as well as diffuse brown lateral crown stripes.

In the winter, adults exhibit head patterns and plumage that is halfway between breeding adult and juvenile plumage. Golden-crowned Sparrows eat from trays in platform and hopper feeders. They consume millet and sunflower seeds, among other seeds and fruits.

6. White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

These raptors Breeding ranges from northern Canada to the Midwest and the Northeastern United States. They migrate from the Northeast and Southwest of the United States in the winter. In the West, it’s unusual to see it in the winter.


White-throated Sparrows prefer coniferous and mixed woods to raise their young. They like thick forests and edge habitats in the winter, especially if there are bird feeders nearby. It’s common to see big flocks of birds. Hop on the ground in openings near cover to feed. Sing all winter and make repeated calls at dawn and dark.


Adults might have black and white striped heads or brown and white striped heads. For their first year, immature birds have a mottled appearance with a brown and white striped head.

These birds have a bright white neck with dark grey sides and grey or brown upper breast. White-throated Sparrows have a brilliant yellow patch on the forehead between the beak and the eye.


In the East, they’re common at bird feeders. White-throated Sparrows are particularly fond of striped and hulled sunflower seeds. Popular foods include white proso millet and peanut kernels. Also good to eat are red proso millet and black oil sunflowers.

7. American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

These are the birds’ breeds on the shrubby tundra, winters in the northern two-thirds of the United States.


Tree Sparrows like grassy or weedy environments near trees in the winter. Feeding them the ground is a good idea. These birds are frequently seen in groups. Occasionally, they will mingle with other sparrows.


The back and wings of this little grey bird are brown, while the tail is a deeper grey color. The head is round, while the tail is squared. The head is light grey in color, with a rufous crown and a line running back from the eye. On the breast, there is a black patch. The wing bars are white.The music is a pure, beautiful warble that descends. The sound is that of a gentle tweedle dee.


Frequently feed on spilled seeds on the ground underneath the feeder. They will eat from hopper or platform feeders.

8. House Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrows were brought from Europe in the mid-1800s and are now found throughout North America, from mid-latitudes in Canada south through Mexico. They don’t move in any way.

House Sparrows may be found in towns, farms, horse stables, strip malls, and urban areas. House Sparrows follow humans everywhere they go. They make their nests in nooks and crevices in buildings, street lights, barns, and nest boxes. House Sparrows congregate in loud flocks.

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The House Bird is a small sparrow. They have a large body and small legs. Their necks are short, and their skulls are flat, with nothing in the way of a forehead hump. The body, rump, and tail of males in breeding plumage are grey.

The wings are dark with chestnut tones and a single broad white wing bar with a single broad white wing bar. Males have a tiny black mask and chin in all plumages, and the black throat reaches to the breast in breeding plumage. From below the eye to the neck and back, the crown is grey and chestnut.

Females and young birds are a drab gray-brown color with a darker back and wings. The underbelly and rump are greys once more. A broad pale brow can be seen behind the eye.


Although House Sparrows have flimsy feet, they prefer to eat from the ground or from trays on platform and hopper feeders. Small seeds are consumed by House Sparrows. White proso millet is their preferred bird food. Canary seed and German millet are two more foods that they enjoy.

9. Bewick’s Wren

Bewick Wren

These birds are year-round inhabitants of the Pacific Coast, the southern interior of the West, Texas, and Mexico. They’re not prevalent in the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys.


Chaparral, desert scrub, rain forest clearings, riverbank tangles, and backyard hedges are examples of brushy woods in a range of biomes. In search of bug meal, crawls and jumps through low tangled foliage, bush, and abandoned constructions.


Bewick’s Wren is smaller than the majority of sparrows. The physique is round and chubby. Neck less. Bill is long, slender, and slightly curved. The long floppy tail was frequently pulled up over the back. White brow stripe that runs the length of the brow. Parts of the body are grey. Back and wings are brownish, ranging from reddish-brown to grayer in color.


These birds have a loud song with single notes and trills, frequently a buzzy sound, comparable to a Song Sparrow. Individual birds have a variety of songs.  Feed-in the bushes near the yard’s edge. At the suet feeder, he eats.

10. Red-winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

These birds are throughout the United States and Mexico year-round residents and are breeders throughout Alaska and in Canada during the summer. In the winter, these northern birds move south to join other permanent birds.


They make nests in damp meadows and cattail marshes. Red-winged Blackbirds spend the winter in the same environment as they do during the mating season, but they often congregate in large groups in feedlots and grain fields. Gender may be used to divide winter flocks.

Males perch prominently in the spring. Females like to hide among the marsh plants or grasses. Forage on the ground often. They have a Stocky with a short tail and a potbellied belly. Straight, conical, and sharp-pointed bill, it’s bigger than a sparrow.


Males have a reddish-orange shoulder with a yellow line. Females are strongly streaked, or striped reddish-brown, buffy white, grey, and black, and novice bird observers sometimes mistake them for sparrows. The neck is frequently pinkish-orange in color. Immature males are identical to mature males, except they have some red on their shoulders.


Red-winged Blackbirds eat the majority of birdseed. They also consume suet. Because they are bigger, they prefer to eat from the platform feeders first.

11. Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

These birds breed in the Rocky Highlands and throughout northern Canada’s mountains. They can be seen on the West Coast and in the Southeast throughout the winter.


Scrubby environments are where you’ll find Fox Sparrows. This includes brushy openings in alpine and boreal woods in the summer.

During the winter, thick tangles can be observed in the chaparral. They remain concealed for a while, but they finally respond to pishing. After all other birds have lost interest, Fox Sparrows may remain perched in the open. The majority of their eating time is spent on the ground or in low-growing bushes.

They are a towhee-sized sparrow with a big stocky body. There is a lot of regional variances. There might be three to four species rather than simply one. Birds in coastal Alaska and British Columbia are dark sooty brown with heavily streaked breasts.


Gray-headed birds with large beaks can be seen in the California highlands. The Rocky Mountain birds have a grey head and a short break. The birds of the East and north are light grey with brilliant foxy orange striping.

Above, the hue is a solid brown with reddish tones on the rump and wings. Below is heavily streaked, with several big spots and narrow inverted chevrons. Fox Sparrows typically forage on the ground, kicking over leaf litter behind thick shrubs. In forested areas, eat on the floor under bird feeders wherever seeds have dropped.

12. Female Purple Finch

Female Purple Finch

These birds are breeds in the southern United States and Canada. They are Year-round residents of Southeast Alaska and the United States’ west coast up to southern California. Winters are more common in the East than the West, except where residents live.

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They can be found in Forests of cool, wet conifers. Mixed woods are also available. In the winter, lowland woods and residential areas are particularly attractive. It likes to forage amid the tree branches. Males can be heard singing from the tops of trees. It’s common to see flocks of them. During the winter, it visits bird feeders.


They have a Plump big angled head and a huge bill. The tail is short and sharply notched. The female Purple Finch’s underbelly is extensively streaked. The back and wings are tinged with a greenish hue. Face with a lot of patterns.

The pale broad brow encircles the black ear covertly and returns to the lower face. Male have unblemished breasts and sides. Even over the brown wings and back, the upper parts were tinted with crimson.


Purple Finches love black oil seeds over other seeds. Their primary feeding method is tube feeders.

13. Diamond Firetail

Diamond Firetail

Diamond Firetails are finch relatives who appear to have been colored in by a 7-year-old. Their vivid red tail feathers and white speckled flanks distinguish them and make them easy to detect. Female Firetails are not the typical drab brown of most female birds; instead, they are the same color as the males.


They nest among thorny shrubs and bushes to shield their eggs and young from predators in open grassland forest, heath, and farmland in south-eastern Australia.


Firetails eat seeds and fruits that are ripe or half-ripe. They also eat insects and bug larvae on a regular basis. Firetails hunt for food on the ground and will bounce about rather than fly.

The male Firetail does not sing; instead, he creates a low-pitched buzzing sound, which is most noticeable during the courting ritual. He draws attention to himself by swaying up and down with dry grass in his beak until she notices him and then opens his lips as if asking for food. She enjoys it so much that she’s decided to move in with him.

Firetails are monogamous. They begin breeding at the age of nine months, and the timing is determined by the temperature; they will not breed if the weather is too hot or cold. Diamond Firetails prefer an open environment; however, they have been spotted in cities. They usually feed in couples or small groups of four or five.

14. Rufous Fantail

Rufous Fantail
Credits – Wikipedia

The Rufous Fantail is species found throughout Australia’s northern and eastern coasts.

In March, adult Rufous Fantails in southern Australia almost finished their journey north. Younger Rufous Fantails will be following them in March and April. During migration, they typically visit more open environments, such as our gardens and parks.


The Rufous Fantail is identified by its rufous or reddy-brown head, back, and tail feathers, as well as its fanned tail, which is roughly twice as long as its body.

Unlike many other bird species, the female Rufous Fantail has just as brilliantly colored plumage as the male but is slightly smaller. People can make the Rufous Fantail nervous. It is a fast-flying bird that, like its relatives the Grey Fantail and Willie Wagtail, flits from place to place and hides among leaves. If you remain motionless and wait silently for a while, it may forget its fear and approach you.


The Rufous Fantail stays low to the ground when eating. Look for them performing acrobatics in the air while catching flying insects or skipping between tempting heaps of leaf litter. While searching for food, they continually fan their tails and flap their wings and bodies.


This article discusses some of the most common little brown birds that may appear at your feeder or in your garden. Grasslands, marshes, and woods are home to a variety of different small brown birds. The most likely little brown birds to visit your feeder are House Sparrows, female House Finches, Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, and female Red-winged Blackbirds.


How can you recognize a bird?

Bird watchers may identify numerous species with just a fast glance if they use the four keys. Size & Shape, Color Pattern, Behavior, and Habitat are the four visual identification keys they’re employing.

How can you recognize a bird song?

BirdGenie is new software that lets you recognize birds based on their sounds. BirdGenie analyses the song and lets you accurately identify the species from a limited selection of the closest matches by just pointing your phone at the bird and clicking the record button.

What is the ideal method for identifying a backyard bird?

The easiest way to identify backyard birds is to employ a balanced observation technique that takes into account the bird’s behavior, sound, color, and field marks. A field guide can also aid in the identification of the most frequent garden birds in your area.

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.