Birders often struggle to distinguish the streaky brown birds, lumping them together with nicknames like “LBJs” (for “Little Brown Jobs”). It is truly challenging to sort out the many species and variations of birds that are small, brownish, and streaked. As always, one of the best strategies for understanding the variability and reaching an identification is to recognize broader groups of species.
Two of the most prominent groups of streaky brown birds are the sparrows and the finches. Both have conical bills for eating seeds and are mainly small and brownish with a streaked pattern. They are classified as two different families, which are not very closely related, and the fundamental differences between them can be obvious once you know what to look for.