Bird GuideNew World SparrowsFive-striped Sparrow
Five-striped Sparrow
Amphispiza quinquestriata

At a Glance

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.
New World Sparrows, Perching Birds
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Desert and Arid Habitats, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
Flitter, Running

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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.


5 1/2" (14 cm). A chunky, dark sparrow, with brown back and gray chest. Has five stripes on throat (three white, two black), narrow white line over eye.
About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Brown, Gray, White
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Notched, Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Song variable, but similar to that of Black-throated Sparrow.
Call Pattern
Flat, Rising
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Hi, Whistle


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.



3-4. White, unmarked. Incubation is by female only, about 12-13 days.


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.

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.


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.


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.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Very uncommon and local in our area, but habitat faces no immediate threats, and numbers are probably stable.