Photo credit: Dan Lory

I'm a big fan of sparrows, because they are so simple and down-to-earth. Birds of prey know they're cool; warblers are into themselves a bit too much. But sparrows are blue-collar birds. You'll find them in plain grassy fields, sitting on barstools, drinking their Old Style straight from the bottle.

Among all the sparrows bellied up to the bar, there's something special about the Lincoln's Sparrow. Its clothes are plain, to be sure, but look how it weaves together those tans and dark browns and blacks and whites. The effect is an understated elegance that always leaves me saying, "Nice." This is a bird who is careful that the socks' color matches the belt. If it owns jeans, I'm sure they're pressed. And I've never seen a Lincoln's Sparrow get ruffled, even when it's ruffling its own feathers.

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I take that back. I managed to ruffle one once when I interrupted it on its way back to the nest with a mouthful of juicy caterpillars. Like when the waiter comes to ask you how your dinner is, just after you've stuffed your mouth with a big jalapeno popper, the poor bird just mumbled, nodded and tried to look cool until I backed away. Then it rushed to the nest, fed the kids, checked itself in the mirror and popped back up with every feather in place.

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Never known to be a slave to fashion, I respect this simple bird's simple style. Lincoln's Sparrows are passing through the Chicago area right now, on their way south for the winter, so get out and find one. Look for the best-dressed sparrow at the bar.

Dan's Feathursday Feature is a weekly contribution to the COS blog featuring the thoughts, insights and pictures of Chicago birder, Dan Lory on birds of the Chicago region.