Rufous-winged Sparrow (Aimophila carpalis)

Rufous-winged Sparrow

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Emberizidae | [latin] Aimophila carpalis | [UK] Rufous-winged Sparrow | [FR] Bruant a epaulettes rousses | [DE] Rostflugel-Ammer | [ES] Zacatonero ala rufa | [NL] Roestvleugelgors


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Aimophila carpalis NA, MA sw USA, nw Mexico
Aimophila carpalis carpalis
Aimophila carpalis cohaerens

Physical charateristics

An Arizona specialty. Suggests a Chipping Sparrow, but tail not notched. Double black “whiskers”; gray stripe through rufous crown. Rufous shoulder not easily seen.

Listen to the sound of Rufous-winged Sparrow

[audio: Sparrow.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 20 cm wingspan max.: 23 cm
size min.: 13 cm size max.: 14 cm
incubation min.: 10 days incubation max.: 11 days
fledging min.: 8 days fledging max.: 9 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 5  
      eggs max.: 6  


North America, Middle America : Southwest USA, Northwest Mexico. Resident of local distribution in the Sonoran desert region from south-central Arizona to northern Sinaloa, Mexico.


Tall desert grass, thorn brush. Quite local in our area, favoring areas with good growth of grass and numerous shrubs, especially mesquite
and desert hackberry. Avoids areas that have been heavily grazed, but may occur in suburban areas where houses are scattered and good vegetation remains.


Members of a pair may remain together on territory at all seasons. Nesting in Arizona is usually in late summer, after beginning of rainy season; in wet years, may also nest in spring.
Nest: Site is usually in low shrub or cactus, from a few inches to 7′ above ground; often in des
ert hackberry or mesquite. Nest (probably built by female only) is a deep open cup of dry weeds, grass, and small twigs, lined with fine grass and often with animal hair.
Eggs: Usually 4, sometimes 2-3. A century ago, may have typically laid clutches of 4-5 in Arizona. Eggs pale bluish white, unmarked. Incubation apparently by female only, length of incubation period not well known.

Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 8-9 days after hatching. 1 brood per year, or 2 in years with good rains.

Feeding habits

Mostly insects and seeds.
Summer diet is mostly insects, especially caterpillars and grasshoppers, also other insects and spiders. Eats more seeds at other seasons, especially those of grasses and weeds, and winter diet may be almost entirely seeds.
Behavior: Forages mostly on the ground. Also forages up in low bushes, especially in summer
. Picks up items from ground or from stems of plants, and occasionally makes short flights to catch insects in midair. Usually forages in pairs or family groups, sometimes loosely associated with Black-throated Sparrows.


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
First specimens of the species were taken in 1872 in Arizona. Between 1872 and 1886, this species’ presence in Arizona declined and seemingly disappeared until 1915 before reappearing in the state.
Rufous-winged Sparrow status Least Concern


Resident from central to southern Arizona (local) and Sonora to Sinaloa. Migration: Mostly a permanent resident. A few may wander short distances away from breeding areas in fall and winter.

Distribution map

Rufous-winged Sparrow distribution range map

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