Small sparrow, sexually monomorphic in plumage. Usually solitary, highly secretive in behavior. Most easily distinguished from other sparrows by its rich, wrenlike song. Plumage grayish brown with fine black streaks and rusty edges on wings and tail; face and side of neck is more uniformly gray than in similar sparrows; narrow buffy eye-ring. Broad, buffy chest band with fine, black streaking continuing down flanks, contrasting with white belly, distinguishes Lincoln's Sparrow from all other adult sparrows. Black streaking sometimes converges into central chest spot as in Song Sparrow (Ammon 1995).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
In the Bozeman area, normal migration periods are May 13 to 30 and August 20 to September 20, with a peak on September 7.
Breeding range: in subalpine and montane zones, found mainly in boggy, willow, sedge, and moss-dominated habitats, particularly where shrub cover is dense. At lower elevations, also prefers mesic willow shrubs, but can be found in mixed deciduous wood groves such as aspen and cottonwoods. During spring and fall migration will be found in shrub-dominated habitats providing cover, particularly riparian sites. Winters primarily in Mexico (Ammon 1995).
Winter: small seeds, terrestrial invertebrates when available. Occasionally uses feeders. Breeding season: mostly arthropods, also small seeds when available (Ammon 1995).
Nests on the ground, most often inside a low willow shrub or mountain birch that also contains fairly dense sedge cover. Eggs are oval. Ground color variable, pale greenish, bluish, pinkish white or off white and spotted light brown to dark brown. Clutch size ranges 3 to 5, most commonly 4 (Ammon 1995). Statewide, nesting is from mid-June to mid-July.