Many customers think that the American goldfinch disappears in the winter. Actually, in the fall, the male goldfinch molts into its yellowish brown winter plumage looking just like the female. During the winter months both male and female goldfinches are actively feeding in our area.
Another finch that people commonly mistake for a sparrow is the female house finch. The male is easily distinguished by the reddish color on his head. The female, a small, brown bird with stripes down her chest, is usually found at the side of the male house finch. Other brown birds you might have seen last winter were the pine siskins and redpoles.
This summer, more than one customer commented to me about a sparrow that built a nest in a flower pot or hanging plant. After more discussion it was revealed that the "sparrow" was a Carolina Wren. A small brown bird that is common to our area year round.
Now some small brown birds are sparrows. Take a good look this fall under your feeders and see if you can pick out the white-throated sparrow, the white-crowned sparrow, the tree sparrow, the fox sparrow, or the Dark-eyed Junco. Even though they are all sparrows they each have their own distinctive behavioral traits and songs.
Take a minute to look up all these species in your field guide and see if you can appreciate the diversity of our little brown birds in mid-Michigan.
If you're looking for a new field guide, the new Backyard Birdsong Guide is very popular! It allows you to enjoy bird songs at the touch of a button while reading vivid descriptions of their songs, calls, and related behaviors.