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26 Common Types of Sparrows in South Dakota (With Pictures)

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song sparrow perched on birch log

Sparrows are a common type of bird that can be found in South Dakota throughout the year but are especially abundant in the summer months. A total of 26 species can be spotted, with some, like the House Sparrow, being especially common and present all year round, despite it not being native to the region. Other species of sparrows are considered accidental visitors to the state but may very occasionally be spotted when they fly in from neighboring areas.

Below are 26 types of sparrows you can see in South Dakota, including information on their markings for easier identification and some information on what food can be used to attract them to feeders.

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The 26 Types of Sparrows in South Dakota

1. American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow
Image Credit: Canadian-Nature-Visions, Pixabay
Latin name: Spizelloides arborea
Size: 5 inches
Weight: 0.8 ounces
Season: Winter

The American Tree Sparrow migrates to South Dakota from Canada. They have long tails with gray faces and a copper-colored cap on top of their heads. The American Tree Sparrow gathers in small flocks to forage, is usually seen in fields, and can be attracted to feeders with sunflower seeds and nyjer.


2. Baird’s Sparrow

Baird's Sparrow
Baird’s Sparrow (Image Credit: Rick Bohn, USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)
Latin name: Centronyx bairdii
Size: 5 inches
Weight: 0.7 ounces
Season: Summer

Baird’s Sparrows are relatively uncommon in South Dakota but may be spotted during the warm summer months. They can be found in pastures and grasslands as well as prairies. They have light brown bodies, mottled with dark brown, and have dark brown stripes on their heads.


3. Brewer’s Sparrow

Baird's Sparrow on the ground
Image Credit: Dave Menke, USFMS, Pixnio
Latin name: Spizella breweri
Size: 5.5 inches
Weight: 0.5 ounces
Season: Summer

The Brewer’s Sparrow is quite a dainty sparrow that is really only an occasional visitor to the region. They have gray bodies with brown streaking on their backs and heads. They are North America’s smallest sparrow and groups can sometimes be seen chasing larger predators away from nests.


4. Cassin’s Sparrow

Cassin's Sparrow Stateline Rd AZ
Cassin’s Sparrow Stateline Rd AZ (Image Credit: HarmonyonPlanetEarth, via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0)
Latin name: Peucaea cassinii
Size: 6 inches
Weight: 0.7 ounces
Season: Summer

Cassin’s Sparrows are another rare spot for South Dakota birdwatchers, but they can be seen in the summer months. They can be difficult to differentiate from other species because they have a plain brown and gray body with fine streaking. They typically live in deserts and grasslands and like tall grass.


5. Chipping Sparrow

close up of a chipping sparrow
Image Credit: Bernell, Pixabay
Latin name: Spizella passerina
Size: 5 inches
Weight: 0.5 ounces
Season: Summer

Relatively common to South Dakota, the Chipping Sparrow can be spotted during the summer months and recognized by the rust-colored cap on their heads. The rest of the bird is gray and light brown. This species is usually found in woods but may also be found in some parks and may be attracted to feeders with cracked corn.


6. Clay-Colored Sparrow

Clay Colored Sparrow
Clay Colored Sparrow (Image Credit: Francesco Veronesi, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)
Latin name: Spizella pallida
Size: 5.5 inches
Weight: 0.5 ounces
Season: Summer

With their gray bellies and brown-streaked wings, Clay-Colored Sparrows are quite plain looking, although they have white stripes on their head and neck that can help with identification. Although they can be seen in summer, this species is usually only spotted on its migratory path from Canada to Texas. Look in shrubland areas and listen for the two-tone song.


7. Dark-Eyed Junco

dark-eyed junco bird perching on tree branch
Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay
Latin name: Junco hyemalis
Size: 6 inches
Weight: 0.8 ounces
Season: Winter

Although more commonly seen during migration, Dark-Eyed Juncos are also a relatively common sight in winter. These birds are usually gray, and, as their name implies, they have very dark or black eyes. They prefer wooded habitats and are often called snowbirds because their winter arrival coincides with the first snow of the season.


8. Eastern Towhee

eastern towhee eating
Image Credit: milesmoody, Pixabay
Latin name: Pipilo erythrophthalmus
Size: 7.5 inches
Weight: 1.5 ounces
Season: Summer

Although they are not common in South Dakota, Eastern Towhees are relatively easy to identify with a gray belly with a black back, wings, and head, with red on their sides. They are usually found at the edges of forests and can be attracted to feeders with a selection of black sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and millet.


9. Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow
Image Credit: InspiredImages, Pixabay
Latin name: Spizella pusilla
Size: 5 inches
Weight: 0.5 ounces
Season: Summer

South Dakota’s Field Sparrows are migratory, although those in the eastern states remain all year. This species likes to live in abandoned green areas and because they are quite timid birds, they can be difficult to locate. They do like cracked corn and millet if you are looking to attract them to your feeder.


10. Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow
Image Credit: PublicDomainImages, Pixabay
Latin name: Passerella iliaca
Size: 7 inches
Weight: 1.5 ounces
Season: Migration

Fox Sparrows are not really resident in South Dakota, but they do pass through during migration. Their red coloring, which is where they get the name Fox Sparrow, makes them quite distinctive, and they may be spotted in parks and around towns.


11. Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper sparrow standing on a tree stump
Image Credit: Pxhere
Latin name: Ammodramus savannarum
Size: 4.5 inches
Weight: 0.6 ounces
Season: Summer

These small sparrows have gray-brown bodies with brown streaks and an orange streak just above the eye. They are seen in South Dakota during the breeding season and are a fairly common sight in summer. As per their name, this species hunts and eats grasshoppers, although it will also dine on spiders. They also have a call that sounds somewhat like a grasshopper.


12. Harris’s Sparrow

harris sparrow
Image Credit: Sari ONeal, Shutterstock
Latin name: Zonotrichia querula
Size: 7 inches
Weight: 1.4 ounces
Season: Migration

Primarily seen during spring and fall migration periods, some Harris’s Sparrows do remain in South Dakota during the winter months. The species is considered under threat. They are typically spotted in the open, feed on insects and seeds, and can be identified by their appearance. They have brown bodies, black faces and bibs, and gray or brown heads.


13. Henslow’s Sparrow

henslow's sparrow
Image Credit: Lev Frid, Shutterstock
Latin name: Centronyx henslowi
Size: 5 inches
Weight: 0.5 ounces
Season: Summer

Although very rarely seen, Henslow’s Sparrows can be seen in the state during the summer months. The Henslow’s Sparro has a pale chest but a yellow-green face. They can be seen in wet grasslands, farms, and any other open green space.


14. House Sparrow

a house sparrow on a tree branch
Image Credit: KnipsKaline, Pixabay
Latin name: Passer domesticus
Size: 6 inches
Weight: 1 ounce
Season: All Year

The House Sparrow is not native to South Dakota, but the introduced species is now a common sight and is found in the state throughout the year. Living around houses and being quite tame birds, House Sparrows have been known to eat directly from peoples’ hands. They will eat discarded leftovers and can be attracted to garden feeders with virtually any type of food. 


15. Lark Bunting

lark bunting bird perching
Image Credit: vagabond54, Shutterstock
Latin name: Calamospiza melanocorys
Size: 6.5 inches
Weight: 1.4 ounces
Season: Summer

The Lark Bunting is not a common bird in South Dakota, but it is easy to spot and identify from other sparrows. Males are black and have a white patch on their wings. They live in grasslands and eat seeds and insects.


16. Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow
Image Credit: Peter Klopp, Pixabay
Latin name: Chondestes grammacus
Size: 6.5 inches
Weight: 1 ounce
Season: Summer

Common in most states, Lark Sparrows like open grasslands and they feed in summer and seeds in winter. They have a happy song and distinctive markings. The bird has a white belly. The brown tail has white edges, and the top of the head is brown and white striped. The Lark Sparrow will eat just about any type of seed at feeders.


17. LeConte’s Sparrow

LECONTE'S SPARROW
LECONTE’S SPARROW (Image Credit: ALAN SCHMIERER, Wikimedia Commons CC0 1.0)
Latin name: Ammospiza lectoneii
Size: 5 inches
Weight: 0.5 ounces
Season: Migration

LeConte’s Sparrows are only usually seen in South Dakota during their migratory flight and typically in October. They have light and dark brown bodies and wings with peach and brown heads. They eat seeds and insects and are most often seen in grassland areas.


18. Lincoln’s Sparrow

Lincolns Sparrow
Image Credit: stephmcblack, Pixabay
Latin name: Melospiza lincolnii
Size: 5.5 inches
Weight: 0.7 ounces
Season: Migration

The Lincoln’s Sparrow is another species that is only seen during migration but can be seen during spring and fall and is a relatively common sight during these times. Their bodies are gray but they have brown streaks on their wings and chests. They are usually spotted in dense thickets, although these shy birds are difficult to see.


19. Nelson’s Sparrow

Nelsons Sparrow
Image Credit: Hans Toom, Pixabay
Latin name: Ammospiza nelsoni
Size: 5 inches
Weight: 0.7 ounces
Season: Migration

Seen primarily in the fall migration period around October, Nelson’s Sparrows are gray and brown birds with an orange color around the head. They are found in wetlands or marshes and are most common in the east of the state.


20. Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow
Image Credit: Canadian-Nature-Visions, Pixabay
Latin name: Passerculus sandwichensis
Size: 5.5 inches
Weight: 0.8 ounces
Season: Summer

As well as spending the breeding season in South Dakota, larger numbers of Savannah Sparrows also migrate through the state, so they are easier to see in March and October and are spotted in grasslands where they are hunting for spiders and other insects. To attract these birds, you will need long grass or a neighboring field. 


21. Song Sparrow

song sparrow bird perching
Image Credit: FotoRequest, Shutterstock
Latin name: Melospiza melodia
Size: 6 inches
Weight: 1.5 ounces
Season: Summer

Song Sparrows are considered somewhat plain to look at and are brown streaked across most of their bodies. However, they are prolific singers and are a very common sight during summer. They eat insects and will eat some seeds, and if you want to hear their incessant singing, you can attract them with black sunflower seeds.


22. Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee perched
Image Credit: Veronika_Andrews, Pixabay
Latin name: Pipilo maculatus
Size: 8 inches
Weight: 1.5 ounces
Season: Summer

Towhees are also types of sparrows and the Spotted Towhee is a common sight in South Dakota’s summer. It is a large sparrow with a black back and head, white belly, red sides, and white spotting on its black wings. Ensure you have decent bushes for the bird to hide in and provide sunflower seeds and cracked corn to attract them to your feeders.


23. Swamp Sparrow

swamp sparrow
Image Credit: Jean van der Meulen, Pixabay
Latin name: Melospiza georgiana
Size: 5 inches
Weight: 0.7 ounces
Season: Summer

Some Swamp Sparrows can be seen in the state in summer, but numbers increase during October as migrating birds pass through South Dakota. They are dark brown with rust-colored wings and crowns. They prefer swamps and they can be heard singing before dawn.


24. Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow (Image Credit: Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)
Latin name: Pooecetes gramineus
Size: 6 inches
Weight: 0.8 ounces
Season: Summer

Vesper Sparrows are found in South Dakota during the summer months and are predominantly brown with white on their bellies and backs. They like grasslands and feed on insects and spiders as well as grasses. 


25. White-Crowned Sparrow

White-Crowned Sparrow
Image Credit: karaskye, Pixabay
Latin name: Zonotrichia leucophrys
Size: 6 inches
Weight: 1 ounce
Season: Migration

Although they are called White-Crowned Sparrows, this bird has a gray body, and it has a black and white striped crown. It is a large sparrow species and prefers grassy and overgrown areas. It is especially keen on sunflower seeds, which can be used to attract the White-Crowned Sparrow to some bird feeders.


26. White-Throated Sparrow

White Throated Sparrow
Image Credit: mdherren, Pixabay
Latin name: Zonotrichia albicollis
Size: 7 inches
Weight: 1 ounce
Season: Migration

The White-Throated Sparrow is a large sparrow that is named for the fact it has a white throat but is more easily recognized by the black and white striped head and the yellow blushing on its face. The bird does not settle in the area but can be seen during spring and fall migration flights and may be convinced to stop at feeders if given millet and black sunflower seeds.

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Final Thoughts

Sparrows are small songbirds that are located across North America and including South Dakota. Some are migratory birds that pass through the state, but others treat South Dakota as their home during the breeding season and others reside in the area all year round. Sparrows generally eat seeds, which can be used to attract them to feeders, although some species do also eat insects, grasses, and berries.


Featured Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.