Last Updated on December 13, 2021 by Guillermina
What is that sparrow-like bird with red head? Do you need to brush up on your birdwatching and identifying skills?
There is a huge variety of brown birds populating the sky all over the world. If you are not an expert birdwatcher, it’s a bit difficult to differentiate them from one another.
If you are wondering about a bird that looks suspiciously a lot like a sparrow but with red markings – you’ve come to the right place!
What Is A Sparrow?
The sparrow belongs to the family Passeridae. The tiny bird’s plumage is mainly made up of grey and brown feathers, though males have a more striking pattern with whites and blacks thrown into the mix.
It is considered the most distributed wild bird in the world. While they are native to Europe and Asia, they have been found as an introduced species in the continents of America, Africa, and Australia. You will find a sparrow wherever you will go!
Due to its extreme commonality all over the world, it’s listed on the IUCN as a species of least concern. It might be harder to locate a place that does not house any sparrows!
Since it’s a very typical kind of bird to come across, it is imaginable that one with red markings can come as a shock! What bird, in fact, can come close to this description?
If it’s the size and shape of a sparrow with a crowning glory of red over its brown body, our red-headed sparrow is likely to be a house finch.
What As A House Finch?
The house finch belongs to the family Fringillidae. The finch family consists of a wide range of birds of many different colors and plumages, but the most common one is primarily brown and grey. Due to the similar dull colors and size, they do look like sparrows with red heads, at first glance!
The finch with the red head is the male. This red marking is seen across the head, the neck, and up to the shoulders. This coloring can vary in intense hues of red. The color is believed to be connected to the diet of the male sparrow, particularly its affinity for fruits and berries.
Unlike the sparrow, they are only present in North America, mostly in the South of Canada, throughout the entire United States, and in Oaxaca, Mexico. These birds are widespread due to being sold illegally on the East Coast of the United States in the 1940s, marking its spread throughout the Eastern half of the country.
The sparrow-like bird with red head is pretty common and their widespread population is enough for them to be a species of Least Concern for the IUCN.
These birds with red chests have a pretty song that is a typical environmental sound in many regions of the American continent.
Other Birds That Look Like The Sparrow
Now that this mystery has been solved, let’s take a look at other birds that you might think could be the ever-present sparrow.
Known as the “King of Birds” in the European region, wrens belong in the family Troglodytidaem, which in itself houses a lot of different species and genera. Wrens are mostly found in the Americas and Europe, with some species found in the Caribbean Islands.
They are comfortable living in populated suburban regions and get along with humans. They are featured in popular culture and have a generally good reputation as wild birds.
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The chickadees of North America are part of the tit family. Their distinctive name is a result of the curious sound that they make when they alarm fellow chickadees of predators. We can imagine the first people to study and name these birds seemed very scary to the flock, resulting in this cute name!
Grosbeaks are an interesting classification of birds with distinctly big, thick beaks. This lead to their name which in French translates into “large beak”. They actually come in a good variety of colors – including the “typical” bird of their group: the evening grosbeak.
The junco is actually from a group of Sparrows that are abundant in North America and can live as far as the Arctic region during the summer season. They usually have completely gray heads, and a variety of gray and brown feathers, though the belly is typically white.
Though they look a little rounder than your typical sparrow, their brown feathers and habitats could make you mistake them for the house sparrow!
The dickcissel is a small bird and looks very similar to the house sparrow, especially in terms of its size. The difference is a nice bright patch of yellow that decorates their neck and eyes. Both the adult males and females have this pretty, bright shade.
However, younger dickcissels are yet to wear this yellow scarf. They are the ones that are predominantly brown and gray, so they could be mistaken for house sparrows instead.
The cowbird is an interesting species. Predominant in the American region, they are a blackbird. You wouldn’t think a blackbird could be mistaken as a house sparrow, but their females actually take on a feather color pattern that looks similar to the typical sparrow, especially at first glance.
These birds have the strange habit of producing a large clutch, but without building their own nest to incubate them. Instead, they lay their eggs in nests of different species. They leave their own young to be incubated by other mothers!
This ploy seems to work due to the cowbird population growing. However, there are some smarter birds who would reject these foreign eggs and remove them!
The house finch is your best bet for the sparrow look-alike with a pretty red crown. If you are living in North America, it’s likely that you are mistaking the two common birds for one another. Don’t worry – it’s a common mistake! This sparrow-like bird with red head shouldn’t confuse you anymore.
What have you seen more of in your birdwatching adventures as of late – sparrows or house finches? Share any of your interesting stories, fascinating finds, and other burning questions in the comments below!