Conservation status Has declined in some areas with increasing development in desert areas; unlike some desert birds, does not adapt well to suburbs. In proper habitat, still widespread and common.
Family New World Sparrows
Habitat Arid brush, creosote-bush deserts. Lives in a variety of dry open habitats, from Sonoran desert with its mix of shrubs and cactus to very barren flats of creosote bush or saltbush. Also locally in grassland with scattered cactus, sagebrush flats, open pinyon-juniper woods.
A sharply marked little bird of the arid zones. Black-throated Sparrows are very common in parts of the Southwest, even in some relatively barren flats of creosote bush where few other birds occur; loose winter flocks feed on the ground in open areas, making little tinkling callnotes. In spring, males perch atop low bushes to sing their metallic notes and trills.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly while running about on the ground; also does some foraging up in shrubs and desert trees. Occasionally makes short flights to catch insects in mid-air.


3-4, sometimes 2. Whitish to very pale blue. Details of incubation not well known. Young: Probably both parents feed the nestlings. Age at which young leave the nest not well known. May raise 2 broods per year.


Probably both parents feed the nestlings. Age at which young leave the nest not well known. May raise 2 broods per year.


Mostly seeds and insects. In general, probably eats more seeds in winter, more insects in summer. Also feeds on fresh green shoots, other green vegetation, and ripe berries and fruits when available. Can survive without water at some times of year, drawing its liquid from insects and green plants that it eats. Young are fed mostly insects.


Male sings in breeding season to defend nesting territory. Timing of nesting activity may vary from year to year, depending on timing of rains. Nest site is in a low shrub or branching cactus, typically well hidden and usually within 2' of the ground; sometimes placed on ground at base of shrub. Nest is a rather bulky, sturdy open cup of grass, weeds, plant fibers, and small twigs, lined with fine grass, plant down, and often with animal hair.

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

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Permanent resident in much of Southwest, migratory farther north. Northern limit of breeding range may vary from year to year, with occasional northward "invasions." Strays sometimes wander far east, even to Atlantic Coast.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

Two clear notes followed by a buzzy trill.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Black-throated Sparrow

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate Threats Near You

Climate threats facing the Black-throated 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.