Skip to Content

Sparrow Imposters

house finch

This fractured syllogism highlights a common misconception:

– All sparrows are small, brown streaked birds.

– I saw a small, streaked brown bird.

– Therefore the bird I saw was a sparrow.

There are many birds that look like sparrows, but which are not. Here are a few of these insidious imposters.


Female House Finch

Female House Finches and sparrows are both small, brownish-gray birds that can often be found in similar habitats, such as urban and suburban areas, gardens, and open woodlands.

  • House Finches have a short, thick cone-shaped beak.
  • House Finches are slightly smaller than sparrows – around 5-6 inches compared to the sparrow’s average length of 6-7 inches.
  • House Finches are often more active and social.

Pine Siskin 

pine siskin

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskins and sparrows are both small, brownish birds that can be found in similar habitats, such as forests, woodlands, and open areas with trees and shrubs.

  • Pine Siskins are slightly smaller – 4-5 inches (sparrows 6-7 inches)
  • Pine Siskins have a thin, pointed beak.
  • Head: Pine Siskins have a narrow, pointed head with a short bill.

Female Red-winged Blackbird

red-winged blackbird

Female Red-winged Blackbird

Female Red-winged Blackbirds and sparrows are both small to medium-sized.

  • Female Red-winged Blackbirds are larger than sparrows – around 7-9 inches.
  • Red-winged Blackbirds have a long and pointed beak.
  • Red-winged Blackbirds have a relatively long tail.

American Pipit

american pipit

American Pipit

American Pipits and sparrows are both small, brownish birds but they are not so similar. Let’s compare some differences.

  • American Pipits are larger than sparrows.
  • American Pipits have a thin, pointed beak.
  • American Pipits have a relatively long, thin tail.

Lark Bunting

lark bunting

Lark Bunting

Identification of Lark Buntings

  • Lark Buntings are same as bigger sparrows or slightly larger than most of them.
  • Male Lark Buntings have a distinctive black plumage with white wing patches
  • Lark Buntings have a short, conical beak (similar to female house finch)


Dark-Eyed Junco 


Dark-Eyed Junco

Here’s a change up.  The Dark-eyed Junco does not look like the typical sparrow, but it is a member of the sparrow family.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

Let others know your thoughts or ask an expert

Would you like to get new articles of birds (Once a month?)

No SPAM! We might only send you fresh updates once a month

Thank you for subscribing!

No thanks! I prefer to follow BirdZilla on Facebook