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Adult song sparrows have brown upperparts with dark streaks on the back and are white underneath with dark streaking and a dark brown spot in the middle of the breast. They have a brown cap and a long brown rounded tail. Their face is gray with a brown streak through each eye. They are highly variable in size across numerous subspecies (for subspecies details, see below). The body length ranges from 11 to 18 cm (4.3 to 7.1 in) and wingspan can range from 18 to 25.4 cm (7.1 to 10.0 in). Body mass ranges from 11.9 to 53 g (0.42 to 1.87 oz). The average of all races is 32 g (1.1 oz) but the widespread nominate subspecies (M. m. melodia) weighs only about 22 g (0.78 oz) on average. The maximum lifespan in the wild is 11.3 years. The eggs of the Song sparrow are brown with greenish-white spots. Females lay three to five eggs per clutch, with an average incubation time of 13–15 days before hatching. In the field, they are most easily confused with the Lincoln's sparrow and the Savannah sparrow. The former can be recognized by its shorter, grayer tail and the differently-patterned head, the brown cheeks forming a clear-cut angular patch. The Savannah sparrow has a forked tail and yellowish flecks on the face when seen up close.
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