A medium-sized, short-tailed sparrow. Extensive plumage variation across range, but always streaky. Usually shows distinctive yellow patch in front of eye, but this can be indistinct or absent on some individuals. Some populations in California and Baja have larger bills and more muted gray streaking; others are very dark and boldly streaked. “Ipswich” Sparrow on the Atlantic Coast is paler with unique buffy-pinkish tones. Almost always found in open areas, from meadows and hayfields to tundra and coastal dunes. Tends to be found in more open habitats than Song Sparrow; also smaller and shorter-tailed.
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