Spizella breweri
(Brewer's Sparrow)

Order: Passeriformes
Order Description: Passerines
Family: Emberizidae
Family Description: Blackbirds, Orioles, & Sparrows

Physical Description:
5-5 1/2" (13-15 cm). Gray with black and chestnut edging on feathers above, dark striping on crown, and a white eyering.

Similar Species- Clay-colored and Vesper sparrows.

Dry, buzzy trills on different notes, descending at the end.

Breeds across portions of western Canada and southwestern North Dakota, south to southern California, southern Nevada, central Arizona, and northwestern New Mexico. Winters from portions of southwestern U.S., south to southern Baja California and central mainland of Mexico.

Usually found in association with sagebrush. During migration and in winter, also found in desert scrub and creosote bush. Idaho study found Brewer's Sparrows prefer large, living sagebrush for nesting. A recent study in southwestern Idaho concluded that their distribution was influenced by both local vegetation cover and landscape-level features such as patch size.

In spring and summer, consumes insects such as alfalfa weevils, aphids, beet leafhopers, caterpillars, and beetles. In fall and winter, feeds on seeds. Obtains water from food.

In Idaho, builds cup-shaped nest in sagebrush between 20 and 50 cm high or in low tree. Forages on ground. May be abundant in sagebrush habitat (Great Basin and Pacific slopes). In eastern Washington, as many as 47 pairs have been recorded on 100 ac. Breeding density of 0.08-0.10 individuals/ha has been reported in shadscale habitat in eastern Nevada. Breeding territory averaged 0.52 ha in Idaho study. During nesting season many males may sing in chorus at dawn and twilight. Two Idaho studies have indicated nesting success is quite low. In Great Basin, population densityClick word for definition is usually 150-300/km2, but may exceed 500/km2 in some cases. Species is one of 7 neotropical migrants thought to be declining in Idaho.

Breeding begins in mid-April in southern range, to May or early June in north. Idaho study found clutchClick word for definition size averaged 3.4 eggs. Nestlings are altricialClick word for definition.

Element Code: ABPBX94040
Status: Protected nongame species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S?,NTMB
National Rank: N5B,N5N

Important State References:
Peterson, K.L. and L.B. Best. 1985. Brewer's sparrow nest-site characteristics in sagebrush community. J. Field Ornith. 56:23-27.

Photo by C.Trost,© 1998
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.
Written by Jason Karl, 2000.