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Project Prairie Birds

A Citizen Science Project for Wintering Grassland Birds

JIZZ Descriptions and Alpha Codes for Selected Species

Long Prairie Grasses

“Jizz” refers to the entire impression that the observer receives when observing an unidentified bird. In addition to the general coloration and behavior of the bird, the habitat the bird is in will help with identification. These descriptions are in no way intended to be the authority on identifying grassland birds, they are simply added to assist you in the field.

Photo Cassin's Sparrow Copyright Michael L. Gray

Cassin's sparrow
Photo Copyright Michael L. Gray

The observer should always consult one of the field guides available and use the following to reinforce any subtle differences. Added practice and experience in the field will allow you to find your own differences that might not be mentioned here or elsewhere. Be sure and share what you have discovered on your own.

Typical Fleeing Behavior on Initial Flushes of Selected Species

Flight paths with notes on appearances (jizz) as seen from above (dorsal and posterior views):

A. appears to be a weak flyer; typically makes short, laborious flights

  1. dark above; crash landing = SEWR (Sedge Wren)
  2. pale buffy-yellow above = LCSP (LeConte's Sparrow)
  3. reddish-rust above = HESP (Henslow's Sparrow)

B. appears to be a strong flyer; typically makes long, hurried flights

  1. flies low and straight; appears very gray; usually lands in a shrub or other perch where they sit up and look back at you = SAVS (Savannah Sparrow)
  2. flies low to medium height with flashes of white from outer tail; appears very gray = VESP (Vesper Sparrow)
  3. appears a very rich buff color = GRSP (Grasshopper Sparrow)
  4. in pineywoods; appears long-tailed and buffy = BACS (Bachman's Sparrow)
  5. in wet grass/reeds:
    1. appears orange-headed = NSTS (Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow);
    2. appears dark with rapid wing beats; typically peers back at you once if lands = SESP (Seaside Sparrow)
  6. dark, long-tailed birds typically in shrubby areas where they like to perch in a shrub after being flushed:
    1. LISP (Lincoln's Sparrow)
    2. larger and plumper = SOSP (Song Sparrow)
    3. reddish wings = SWSP (Swamp Sparrow)
    4. weak flight; stays hidden = HOWR (House Wren)
    5. flocking = FISP (Field Sparrow)

C. stair-steps high then drops to the ground = SPPI (Sprague's Pipit)


For additional information and abbreviations, see Species Page.

For Additional Information write to:

Project Prairie Birds Program
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
or send a message to: