Bird GuideNew World SparrowsBlack-chinned Sparrow
Black-chinned Sparrow
Spizella atrogularis

At a Glance

A small, long-tailed bird of arid southwestern hills, the Black-chinned Sparrow is quite localized and sometimes overlooked. It often nests on steep hillsides covered with dense low scrub, areas that tend to be ignored by birders. In winter it may occur in small flocks, foraging inconspicuously on the ground in brushy areas, sometimes associating with Chipping or Brewer's sparrows. The black chin mentioned in the name is present only on males in breeding plumage.
New World Sparrows, Perching Birds
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Desert and Arid Habitats, Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
California, Southwest, Texas
Direct Flight

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Fall migration begins early, with many leaving their breeding grounds during August. May be a permanent resident in some areas near the Mexican border.


5-5 1/2" (13-14 cm). Gray head and chest, pale bill suggest a junco, but back and wings patterned like Chipping Sparrow. Black on chin mainly on summer males. Has a relatively long tail for its small size.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Brown, Gray, Pink
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Long, Notched, Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

The beautiful song is a series of slurred notes, either swee? swee? or chew chew chew, running together into a rapid canary-like trill.
Call Pattern
Falling, Rising
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Trill, Whistle


Brushy mountain slopes, open chaparral, sagebrush. Found mostly in arid scrub on hillsides, from low foothills up to almost 7,000' in mountains, in chaparral and open thickets of manzanita, scrub oak, sagebrush, chamise, and other low shrubs. In winter also found locally in desert areas, mesquite thickets.



2-4, sometimes 5. Very pale blue, often unmarked, sometimes dotted with dark brown. Incubation probably about 13 days, and may be mostly by female.


Both parents bring food to the young. Age at which the young leave the nest is not well known.

Feeding Behavior

Does most of its foraging on the ground, often moving about slowly and spending much time feeding in a limited area. Also forages up in low shrubs. Except when nesting, often forages in small, loose flocks, sometimes associated with other sparrows.


Probably seeds and insects. Diet is not well known; probably eats mostly seeds in winter, many insects in summer, like related sparrows. Probably feeds its young mostly on insects.


Often nests in small loose colonies. Male sings in spring to defend nesting territory. Nest site is close to ground (from a few inches up to 4' high) in a low shrub, often a sagebrush. Nest is a shallow open cup made of dry grass, weed stems, yucca fibers, lined with fine grass, plant fibers, sometimes feathers or animal hair.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Fairly common in its habitat, numbers probably stable.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Black-chinned Sparrow. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Black-chinned Sparrow

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.