Large, dark sparrow with extensive geographic variation. Larger than Song Sparrow, and generally darker with thicker streaking. Four groups of subspecies: Red (only subspecies found in eastern U.S., but breeds to Alaska), Slate-colored (Rockies), Sooty (Pacific Northwest), Thick-billed (California). Habitat varies across range, but generally breeds in forests with thick understory, often with plenty of conifers. In winter, tends to occur in dense thickets. Forages mainly on the ground in search of seeds. Visits feeders.