|Conservation status||Great variation in annual numbers makes it difficult to monitor overall population. Apparently still widespread and common.|
|Family||New World Sparrows|
|Habitat||Desert grassland, brushy fields. Breeds in a variety of situations having good ground cover of grass and low shrubs; ranges from open grassland with only scattered shrubs to brushy areas with grassy understory. In migration and winter, also found in pure grassland, brushy areas, deserts.|
Forages mostly or entirely on the ground, hopping about in relatively open areas, taking items from the ground or from plant stems.
3-5, usually 4. White, unmarked. Details of incubation are not well known. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Age at which young leave the nest is not well known.
Both parents feed the nestlings. Age at which young leave the nest is not well known.
Mainly insects and seeds. Summer diet is partly to mostly insects, especially grasshoppers, caterpillars, moths, and beetles, also many others. Young are fed almost entirely on insects. Also eats seeds, especially in fall and winter, mainly those of weeds and grasses.
Somewhat irregular in its nesting, especially in western and northern parts of range; may appear in numbers and breed only in years with good rainfall. Male advertises territory with flight song display, flying up to about 20' and then gliding and fluttering down, while singing. In courtship, male may chase female, or may display with wings and tail partly spread and fluttering. Nest site is usually on the ground, well hidden among weeds or at the base of a bush. Sometimes up to a foot above ground in a low shrub. Nest is an open cup made of dry grass, weed stems, bark, plant fibers, lined with fine grass.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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In many areas, seasonal occurrence is very irregular; may be present in large numbers one summer, absent the next. Winter numbers in Southwest are also quite variable. Strays sometimes wander far, having reached eastern Canada.
- 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 Calls4 loud, melodious, clear whistles, uttered from the tops of tall grass stalks and also in flight. Second note is prolonged and quavering; third note is lowest.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Cassin's 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 facing the Cassin'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.