Sparrows are scary. At least, that’s their reputation. People new to birding, or even not so new, often regard sparrows as sneaky and streaky, hard to see and hard to ID. But these fascinating birds become easier to recognize when we break them down by season and by groups.
Dividing sparrows up into groups is especially helpful. Some types are solitary and elusive, lurking in dense cover all the time. Others are more sociable, and flocks may gather in open habitats where they are easier to see. Looking at scientific names in your field guide is a good way to start separating out these groups; the first part of the name, the genus, gives you a handle on which species are closely related.