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Golden-Crowned Sparrow

When I first started birding, all sparrows looked alike.  From some angles it’s very hard to tell.

First you look at the front and check the head.  This bird has a yellow head.  Other sparrows will have a white stripe, a more narrow stripe, brown feathers, etc.  The golden crown is the easiest way to identify this Golden-Crowned Sparrow.  It’s specially easy during winter plumage when the crown has no striping.

Then you can look at the back.  Check to see if the stripes cover the entire back.  Also check if the tail feathers have any distinctive features.  For example, Vesper Sparrows have white outer tail feathers.  The Golden-Crowned Sparrow, on the other hand, has only dark-brown tail feathers.

From a side view, check the wing pattern.  Are the tips white?  This is not the best identifier because many sparrows have white tips.  Next, check whether there is a stripe from the sparrow’s beak to his eye to the back of his head.  Golden-Crowned Sparrows have a faint stripe.

Lastly, you can check if the bird has any attitude.  This is my favorite picture of the Golden-Crowned Sparrow.

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