|Conservation status||Still common in the center of its range, but showing population declines in peripheral areas, probably because of habitat loss.|
|Family||New World Sparrows|
|Habitat||Sagebrush, brushy plains; also near treeline in Rockies; in winter, also weedy fields. In summer typically in open flats covered with sagebrush; sometimes in stands of saltbush, on open prairie, or in pinyon-juniper woodland. Northern race (sometimes considered a separate species, called "Timberline Sparrow") summers at and above treeline in Canadian Rockies, in stunted thickets of willow, birch, and fir. In winter, found in open country, especially desert dominated by creosotebush.|
Forages on the ground and in low shrubs. Except during nesting season, usually forages in flocks, often associated with other kinds of sparrows.
3-4, sometimes 5. Pale blue-green, with variable brown spotting often concentrated toward larger end. Incubation lasts 11-13 days, roles of sexes in incubation not well known. The incubating bird may sit motionless on nest until very closely approached. If disturbed, adult may fly away or may drop to the ground and sneak away through the grass. Young: Both parents probably feed the nestlings. Young birds leave nest about 8-9 days after hatching, before fully capable of flight. Adults may raise more than 1 brood per season.
Both parents probably feed the nestlings. Young birds leave nest about 8-9 days after hatching, before fully capable of flight. Adults may raise more than 1 brood per season.
Mostly seeds and insects. Diet in summer is mostly insects, including beetles and beetle larvae, plant lice, caterpillars. By late summer more seeds are eaten, and in winter diet is mostly seeds. Can survive for an extended period on dry seeds, with no water.
Male sings in spring to defend nesting territory. Nest site is almost always well concealed in low shrub, no more than 4' above ground, rarely on ground. Nest is a small, compact, open cup of grasses, weeds, twigs, rootlets, lined with finer plant material and with animal hair.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Migrates south relatively early in fall, and migrates north in mid- to late spring; some are present on wintering grounds for more than 9 months of year.
- 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.Learn more
Songs and CallsAlternating trills, musical or buzzy, often quite prolonged. Call note a soft seep, most often given in flight.
Learn more about this sound collection.