Photo: Tim Lenz/Flickr Creative Commons

Sagebrush Sparrow

Artemisiospiza nevadensis

In shrubby open flats of the West, such as the broad sagebrush plains of the Great Basin, the Sagebrush Sparrow is a common bird. It is often seen running about on the ground, with its longish tail cocked up above the level of its back; when perched up on a shrub, it twitches its tail in a down-up motion like a phoebe. This bird and Bell’s Sparrow were formerly lumped under the name of Sage Sparrow. 
Conservation status Still common and widespread in Great Basin region, numbers probably stable.
Family New World Sparrows
Habitat Dry brushy foothills, chaparral, sage; in winter, also deserts. Breeds in brushy open country. In northern and eastern part of range, mainly in stands of big sagebrush; farther southwest, mainly in saltbush, chamise, and other low shrubs of arid flats. Winters in dry chaparral, open flats with scattered brush, deserts.
In shrubby open flats of the West, such as the broad sagebrush plains of the Great Basin, the Sagebrush Sparrow is a common bird. It is often seen running about on the ground, with its longish tail cocked up above the level of its back; when perched up on a shrub, it twitches its tail in a down-up motion like a phoebe. This bird and Bell’s Sparrow were formerly lumped under the name of Sage Sparrow. 
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on the ground, picking up items from the soil or from plant stems, sometimes scratching with its feet. Also does some feeding up in low bushes. When not nesting, often forages in small flocks.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 2-5. Bluish white to pale blue, variably spotted or blotched with brown, gray, and black. Incubation lasts about 13-16 days.


Young

Probably both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 9-11 days after hatching. A pair may raise 2 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly seeds and insects. Feeds on many insects, especially in summer, including grasshoppers, beetles, true bugs, leafhoppers, ants, and many others, also spiders. Also eats many seeds of weeds, grasses, and shrubs. Young are fed mostly insects.


Nesting

Male returns to same nesting territory each year, defends it by singing from a raised perch. Nest site is usually in low shrub (usually in sagebrush or saltbush, depending on habitat), less than 4' above the ground. Sometimes placed on the ground under a shrub. Nest is a bulky open cup, made of twigs, sticks, lined with fine dry grass, weeds, sometimes animal hair.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Birds from Great Basin mostly move south into deserts in winter.

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Migration

Birds from Great Basin mostly move south into deserts in winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls

Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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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

Sagebrush 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
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