At a Glance
Two kinds of plain, long-tailed sparrows live side by side in southwestern grasslands. While Cassin's is fairly widespread, Botteri's Sparrow is found only in a few areas of southern Texas and Arizona. Although it will perch up on a shrub or an ocotillo stalk to sing its series of accelerating chip notes, Botteri's Sparrow is quite secretive at other times, hiding in dense grass.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
New World Sparrows, Perching Birds
Desert and Arid Habitats, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
Direct Flight, Flitter, Running
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Timing of migration not well known, since birds are very secretive when not singing.
6" (15 cm). Large, long-tailed, lacks obvious marks. Cassin's Sparrow less uniformly colored, may show streaks on flanks or dark scallops on back, but song is best field mark.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Brown, Tan, White
Songs and Calls
Song consists of several short trills often introduced by a couple of clips and che-licks, but is variable.
Falling, Flat, Undulating
Desert grassland, coastal prairie. In our area, found mostly in drier grassland areas with relatively tall grass and scattered taller shrubs; mainly desert grassland in Arizona, coastal prairie in Texas. Avoids true desert and heavily grazed areas. Farther south in Mexico and Central America, also found on dry scrub areas, overgrazed pastures, and open savanna.
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2-5, probably usually 4. White to pale bluish white, unmarked. Details of incubation are not well known. Young: Probably both parents help feed the nestlings.
Probably both parents help feed the nestlings.
Forages almost entirely while hopping or running on the ground, picking up items from the ground or from plants. Usually forages alone, sometimes in pairs or family groups.
Mostly insects and seeds. Diet is not known in detail. In summer feeds mainly on insects, especially grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, and beetles, plus many others. Also eats many seeds, probably more so in winter.
Nesting activity is mostly in early summer in Texas, mostly in late summer (after onset of summer rainy season) in Arizona. Male sings from a raised perch to defend nesting territory. Details of nesting behavior are not well known. Nest: Nest is usually on the ground, often in a slight depression in soil and hidden under grass and weeds; sometimes slightly elevated in base of grass clump, and occasionally a few inches up in the base of a bush. Nest is a shallow open cup made of grass.
Probably has declined in both Arizona and Texas with loss of habitat, but still common in some localities.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Botteri's Sparrow. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Botteri's 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.