Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)

Least Concern

Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii)


French: Bruant de Lincoln German: Lincolnammer Spanish: Chingolo de Lincoln

Fringilla Lincolnii


, 1834,

Labrador = near mouth of Natashquan River, Quebec, Canada


Geographical variation weak and clinal, and differences among populations obscured by individual variation; alticola often considered to be a synonym of nominate. Three subspecies provisionally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. l. lincolnii (Audubon, 1834) – NW Alaska E through Canadian boreal forest (S from NC Yukon and C Northwest Territories) to Labrador, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and S in USA to C Washington, N Idaho, NW Montana, N Minnesota, N Wisconsin, C Michigan, W New York and C Maine; winters in region from extreme SW British Columbia and USA (S from N California, S Nevada and Arizona E to N Oklahoma, E Kansas, C Missouri, S Kentucky and SW Alabama, rare further E to N Georgia, NW South Carolina and Florida) S to S Mexico and Guatemala, rarely S to Honduras, Panama and Greater Antilles.
  • M. l. gracilis (Kittlitz, 1858) – coastal S Alaska and W Canada (C British Columbia); winters in SW USA (C California and Arizona) and NW & NC Mexico (Baja California, Sonora and Coahuila).
  • M. l. alticola (A. H. Miller & McCabe, 1935) – mountains of W USA from NC Oregon E to SC Montana and NC Wyoming, S to California (inner coastal ranges to San Jacinto Mts), WC Nevada, SW Utah, EC Arizona and N New Mexico; non-breeding from C California, Arizona and S Texas S through Mexico (except Yucatán Peninsula) to Guatemala, El Salvador and SW Honduras.
  • Descriptive notes

    11·5–14·5 cm; 14·3–24 g. A medium-sized sparrow; often pumps tail up and down during flight. Nominate race has crown brown to dark rusty... read more


    Song a rich warble similar to that of Northern House Wren (Troglodytes aedon);... read more


    Often in boggy sites with dense low willows (Salix), sedge (Carex) and in moss-... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on a variety of foods. During breeding season mostly arthropods, such as insect larvae, and adult beetles (Coleoptera), flies (... read more


    Egg-laying from late May (mostly Jun and Jul), fledglings mid-Jun to mid-Aug; often two or more broods. Apparently monogamous. Usually in... read more


    Migratory; in parts of W can be found in both summer and winter, although at different elevations,... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common in W parts of range; uncommon to marginally rare in parts of E. In some areas of range habitat has been degraded by grazing of livestock.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. (2020). Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 26 February 2020).