Sage Sparrow (Amphispiza belli)

Sage Sparrow

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Emberizidae | [latin] Amphispiza belli | [UK] Sage Sparrow | [FR] Pinson de Bell | [DE] Bleifuss-Ammer | [ES] Zacatonero de artemisa | [NL] Bells Gors


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Aimophila belli
Amphispiza belli NA, MA wc, sw nw Mexico
Amphispiza belli belli
Amphispiza belli canescens
Amphispiza belli cinerea
Amphispiza belli clementeae
Amphispiza belli nevadensis

Physical charateristics

A gray sparrow of arid brush. Note the combination of a single breast spot and heavy dark “whiskers” on each side of the throat.
Dark cheek, white eye-ring, touch of whitish over the eye. “Bell’s” Sparrow, a race resident west of the Sierra in California, was until recently regarded as a distinct species. It is much darker, with heavier black whiskers.

Listen to the sound of Sage Sparrow

[audio: Sparrow.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 20 cm wingspan max.: 23 cm
size min.: 12 cm size max.: 15 cm
incubation min.: 12 days incubation max.: 16 days
fledging min.: 9 days fledging max.: 11 days
broods: 2   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 6  


North America, Middle America : Westcentral, Southwest. Sage Sparrow is widespread in the western U.S. (races nevadensis and canescens), nesting as far north as Washington, eastward to Wyoming and Colorado, and west to California. Birds of the western U.S. (except coastal California) migrate southward as far south as Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico.


Dry brushy foothills, chaparral, sage; in winter, also deserts.
Breeds in brushy open country. In northern and eastern part of range, mainly in stands of big sagebrush; farther southwest, mainly in saltbush, chamise, and other low shrubs of arid flats. Winters in dry chaparral, open flats with scattered brush, desert


Male returns to same nesting territory each year, defends it by singing from a raised perch.
Nest: Site is usually in low shrub (usually in sagebrush or saltbush,
depending on habitat), less than 4′ above the ground. Sometimes placed on the ground under a shrub. Nest is a bulky open cup, made of twigs, sticks, lined with fine dry grass, weeds, sometimes animal hair.
Eggs: 3-4, sometimes 2-5. Bluish white to pale blue, variably spotted or blotched with brown, gray, and black. Incubation lasts about 13-16 days; roles of the parents in incubation not well known.
Young: Probably both parents bring food for the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 9-11 days after hatching. A pair may raise 2 broods per year.

Feeding habits

Mostly seeds and insects. Feeds on many insects, especially in summer, including grasshoppers, beetles, true bugs, leafhoppers
, ants, and many others, also spiders. Also eats many seeds of weeds, grasses, and shrubs. Young are fed mostly insects.
Behavior: Forages mostly on the ground, picking up items from the soil or from plant stems, sometimes scratching with its feet. Also does some feeding up in low bushes. When not nesting, often forages in small flocks.


This species has an extremely 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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely 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.
Sage Sparrow status Least Concern


Western United States to northern Mexico.
b Migration: Birds from Great Basin mostly move south into deserts in winter; those found west of the Sierra in California are mostly permanent residents.

Distribution map

Sage Sparrow distribution range map

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