Photo: Greg Lasley/Vireo

Olive Sparrow

Arremonops rufivirgatus

In brushy country of far southern Texas, this plain little sparrow moves about quietly in the undergrowth. With its secretive behavior and soft ticking callnotes, it often goes unnoticed at most seasons; in spring, however, its song of accelerating musical chips may be conspicuous. Despite the name, this bird is probably related more closely to the towhees than to our other sparrows; it often forages like a towhee, using its feet to scratch for food in the leaf-litter.
Conservation status Undoubtedly has decreased in southern Texas as land has been cleared for farming; still common in remaining habitat.
Family New World Sparrows
Habitat Woodland undergrowth, weedy thickets. In southern Texas, lives in the understory of dense low woods and in areas of low native brush. Farther south in the tropics, inhabits drier woods and semi-open scrub, avoiding humid tropical forest.
In brushy country of far southern Texas, this plain little sparrow moves about quietly in the undergrowth. With its secretive behavior and soft ticking callnotes, it often goes unnoticed at most seasons; in spring, however, its song of accelerating musical chips may be conspicuous. Despite the name, this bird is probably related more closely to the towhees than to our other sparrows; it often forages like a towhee, using its feet to scratch for food in the leaf-litter.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Does at least the majority of its feeding on the ground, under dense thickets or near their edges. Often forages rather like a towhee, scratching with its feet among the leaf-litter. Members of a pair may forage together.


Eggs

3-5, typically 4. Glossy white, unmarked. Incubation period and roles of the parents in incubating are not well known. Young: Probably both parents feed the nestlings. Pairs probably raise 2 broods per year.


Young

Probably both parents feed the nestlings. Pairs probably raise 2 broods per year.

Diet

Probably insects and seeds. Diet is thought to be mainly insects (including caterpillars) and the seeds of wild plants.


Nesting

Little is known of the nesting habits. Birds may remain in pairs or small groups during the winter, separating into isolated pairs in spring. Males sing in spring to defend nesting territories. Nest site is in dense thickets, usually placed in shrub or cactus, typically 2-3' above ground but sometimes up to 5' high. Nest is large for size of bird, a bulky cup with a domed top above it, so that entrance is on the side; made of dry weed stems, grass, twigs, leaves, strips of bark, lined with fine grass and sometimes with hair.

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

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

Apparently a permanent resident throughout its range.

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Migration

Apparently a permanent resident throughout its range.

Songs and Calls
Series of musical chips, becoming more rapid at the end.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.