Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Five-striped Sparrow

Amphispiza quinquestriata

This elegant Mexican sparrow was never found in our area until the late 1950s. It is now known to be a rare and local nesting bird in several canyons in southern Arizona, but no one knows if it was simply overlooked in the past or if it is actually a recent arrival north of the border. The Five-striped Sparrow favors steep brushy hillsides, where the male often sings his metallic song while perched on the spindly stems of ocotillo.
Conservation status Very uncommon and local in our area, but habitat faces no immediate threats, and numbers are probably stable.
Family New World Sparrows
Habitat Dry canyon slopes, rocky hillsides. In Arizona found on steep hillsides, generally above streams, with dense growth of low shrubs such as mesquite, acacia, and hackberry, and taller stands of ocotillo. Known Arizona sites are at elevations from 3,400 to 4,000 feet. In Mexico, also found in dry tropical woods on rocky ground, usually on hillsides.
This elegant Mexican sparrow was never found in our area until the late 1950s. It is now known to be a rare and local nesting bird in several canyons in southern Arizona, but no one knows if it was simply overlooked in the past or if it is actually a recent arrival north of the border. The Five-striped Sparrow favors steep brushy hillsides, where the male often sings his metallic song while perched on the spindly stems of ocotillo.
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Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on the ground and in low vegetation, moving rather slowly and deliberately, picking up small items with bill. Sometimes takes insects from spiderwebs; rarely makes short flights to catch insects in mid-air.


Eggs

3-4. White, unmarked. Incubation is by female only, about 12-13 days. Young: Both parents feed young, although female may bring more at first. On hot days, female may spend time standing on edge of nest to shade young. Young leave nest about 9-10 days after hatching, but able to make only short flights at this stage. Young are fed by parents for at least 2 weeks after fledging, may associate with them up to 7 weeks. Usually 1-2 broods per year, sometimes 3.


Young

Both parents feed young, although female may bring more at first. On hot days, female may spend time standing on edge of nest to shade young. Young leave nest about 9-10 days after hatching, but able to make only short flights at this stage. Young are fed by parents for at least 2 weeks after fledging, may associate with them up to 7 weeks. Usually 1-2 broods per year, sometimes 3.

Diet

Mostly insects and seeds. Feeds mainly on insects in summer, particularly caterpillars, moths, and grasshoppers, also ants and others. Also eats seeds and some small berries. Young are fed mostly caterpillars and grasshoppers.


Nesting

In Arizona, nests mostly in mid to late summer, after onset of summer rainy season, but pairs may occupy territories by late spring. Male sings persistently to defend nesting territory. Nest site is in dense clump of grass, in low shrub such as hackberry, hopbush, or condalia, or at base of ocotillo, from a few inches to 5' above ground. Nest (built by female) is a deep open cup of grass, lined with finer grass and often with animal hair.

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

Migration

Migratory status is poorly known. Has been found in winter in Arizona only a few times, suggesting that most probably leave in fall, but species is extremely secretive and hard to detect in winter.

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Migration

Migratory status is poorly known. Has been found in winter in Arizona only a few times, suggesting that most probably leave in fall, but species is extremely secretive and hard to detect in winter.

Songs and Calls
Song variable, but similar to that of Black-throated Sparrow.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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Bald Eagle. Photo: Don Berman/Audubon Photography Awards

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