Photo: Arthur Morris/Vireo

Brewer's Sparrow

Spizella breweri

One of the most characteristic summer birds of the sagebrush flats of the Great Basin is this drab little sparrow. The plainness of its plumage is compensated for by the remarkable variety in its song. The song is most fully developed in summer, but winter flocks may perch up in the tops of desert shrubs with several birds singing at once, creating a jumbled chorus.
Conservation status Still common in the center of its range, but showing population declines in peripheral areas, probably because of habitat loss.
Family New World Sparrows
Habitat Sagebrush, brushy plains; also near treeline in Rockies; in winter, also weedy fields. In summer typically in open flats covered with sagebrush; sometimes in stands of saltbush, on open prairie, or in pinyon-juniper woodland. Northern race (sometimes considered a separate species, called "Timberline Sparrow") summers at and above treeline in Canadian Rockies, in stunted thickets of willow, birch, and fir. In winter, found in open country, especially desert dominated by creosotebush.
One of the most characteristic summer birds of the sagebrush flats of the Great Basin is this drab little sparrow. The plainness of its plumage is compensated for by the remarkable variety in its song. The song is most fully developed in summer, but winter flocks may perch up in the tops of desert shrubs with several birds singing at once, creating a jumbled chorus.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages on the ground and in low shrubs. Except during nesting season, usually forages in flocks, often associated with other kinds of sparrows.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 5. Pale blue-green, with variable brown spotting often concentrated toward larger end. Incubation lasts 11-13 days, roles of sexes in incubation not well known. The incubating bird may sit motionless on nest until very closely approached. If disturbed, adult may fly away or may drop to the ground and sneak away through the grass. Young: Both parents probably feed the nestlings. Young birds leave nest about 8-9 days after hatching, before fully capable of flight. Adults may raise more than 1 brood per season.


Young

Both parents probably feed the nestlings. Young birds leave nest about 8-9 days after hatching, before fully capable of flight. Adults may raise more than 1 brood per season.

Diet

Mostly seeds and insects. Diet in summer is mostly insects, including beetles and beetle larvae, plant lice, caterpillars. By late summer more seeds are eaten, and in winter diet is mostly seeds. Can survive for an extended period on dry seeds, with no water.


Nesting

Male sings in spring to defend nesting territory. Nest site is almost always well concealed in low shrub, no more than 4' above ground, rarely on ground. Nest is a small, compact, open cup of grasses, weeds, twigs, rootlets, lined with finer plant material and with animal hair.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates south relatively early in fall, and migrates north in mid- to late spring; some are present on wintering grounds for more than 9 months of year.

Download Our Bird Guide App

Migration

Migrates south relatively early in fall, and migrates north in mid- to late spring; some are present on wintering grounds for more than 9 months of year.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Alternating trills, musical or buzzy, often quite prolonged. Call note a soft seep, most often given in flight.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
New World Sparrows Perching Birds

Brewer's Sparrow

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
Zoom InOut

Explore Similar Birds