The song sparrow is brown-backed, with its whitish underparts heavily streaked with brown and a large brown central spot on the breast. Male and females are 5 to 7 inches long and are similar. In flight the bird pumps its longish tail. It sings throughout spring and summer. A sweet, variable song, it was rendered by Thoreau as “Maids! Maids! Maids, hang up your teakettle-ettle-ettle,” which expresses the swing and tempo.