Amphispiza belli
(Sage Sparrow)

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

Physical Description:
5-6" (13-15 cm). Gray head, brown above, and whitish below. Have a light eyering, eyebrow, and white and black vertical bars on neck. Small, black midbreast spot.

Similar Species- Juvenile Black-throated Sparrow

Finch-like jumbled notes, rising and then falling. Call is a sharp tsit.

Breeds from central Washington, eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, and southwestern and northwestern Colorado, south to southern California, central Baja California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico. Winters from portions of southwestern U.S., south to portions of northwestern Mexico.

Found in sagebrush, saltbush brushlands, and chaparralClick word for definition. During migrationClick word for definition and in winter, also found in arid plains with sparse bushes, in grasslands, and in open situations with scattered brush. One Idaho study found nesting occurred in areas where sagebrush coverage was sparse but clumped. A recent southwestern Idaho study concluded that distribution of sage sparrows was influenced by both local vegetation cover and landscape features such as patch size.

Feeds on insects, spiders, and seeds (especially in winter.)

Builds cup-shaped nest, usually in sagebrush. Idaho study found species preferred large, living sagebrush for nesting; nests were not placed on southwest side of shrubs. Individuals run along ground, stopping to pick up food; may also take food from foliage. Species forms flocks of 25-50 individuals in winter. Breeding territory size usually averages about 1.5-3 ha. population densityClick word for definition is usualy 50-200/km2 in Great Basin. In Oregon, predation by Townsend's ground squirrels affected reproductive success; populations in southeastern Washington and northern Nevada incurred high rates of nest predation, probably from gopher snakes.

An Idaho study found clutchClick word for definition size averaged 2.8 eggs. Incubation lasted about 14 days; successful nests averaged 1.3 fledglings/nest. Nestlings are altricialClick word for definition. Female produces 1-3 broods annually. Reproductive success is greater in wetter years.

Element Code: ABPBX97020
Status: Protected nongame species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4,NTMB
National Rank: N5

Important State References:
Peterson, K.L. and L.B. Best. 1985. Nest-site selection by Sage Sparrows. Condor 87:217-221.

Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.
Written by Jason Karl, 2000.