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Brewer's Sparrow

Spizella breweri

Length: 5.5 inches Wingspan: 8 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: Overall plain without strong distinguishing marks.  Paler than many similar sparrows.

Brewer's Sparrow - Spizella breweriThe Brewer's Sparrow is a rather non-descript resident of sagebrush flats of the western U.S.  Quite common throughout the West, a jumbled chorus of multiple singing males is a common sound near sunrise and sunset.  They usually don't spend a great deal of time on their summer breeding grounds, with some spending more than nine months a year on their wintering grounds. Populations of Brewer's Sparrows are found in two distinct habitats. Most are found in dry sagebrush habitats, but there is a "timberline" form of the Brewer's Sparrow that lives in higher elevation alpine meadows. The timberline Brewer's Sparrows are found in high elevation areas of the Rocky Mountains of the western US and southwestern Canada, but there's one disjunct population that breeds hundreds of miles north from other breeding locations, in the Yukon area of Alaska.  Some have called for the timberline form of the Brewer's Sparrow to be split into a distinct species.


Sagebrush, other brushy grasslands, open woodland, or shrubby forest edges. Note the "timberline" form of a Brewer's Sparrow is found in high alpine meadows in the western part of North America.


The spring and summer diet is primarily insects, while the fall and winter diet is primarily seeds.  Used to dry habitats, they can survive for long periods without drinking.


Primarily forages on the ground or low in brush and shrubbery.  Brewer's Sparrows are sociable in most seasons other than when nesting, foraging in flocks.


June and July.  The nest is a small cup built of grasses, weeds, twigs, and other fine vegetative material.  The female usually lays 3 or 4 eggs.  Upon hatching, both parents help to feed the young.  The young leave the nest within 10 days, but are still fed by the parents for a short time after fledging.  In some areas, Brewer's Sparrows may raise more than one brood per breeding season.


A descending series of varied trills and buzzes. The call is a thin, quiet tseet.

1Click here to hear the song of a Brewer's Sparrow

2Click here to hear the call of a Brewer's Sparrow


Summers throughout much of the western U.S. and portions of western Canada.  Winters in the southwestern U.S., Mexico, and southward.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click to access an interactive eBird map of Brewer's Sparrow sightings

Bird Feeders:

Will come to feeders for baby chick feed, seeds.

Similar Species:

Potentially confused with a number of other sparrow species:

Conservation Status: Populations are widespread, found across a very broad geographic area, with high population counts in parts of their range. Overall numbers are relatively stable, although consistent surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey may show some modest declines in recent decades. The IUCN lists the Brewer's Sparrow as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

1) BirdWeb - Brewer's Sparrow

2) Audubon Guide - Brewer's Sparrow

3) WhatBird - Brewer's Sparrow

Photo Information:

June 19th, 2018 - Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, Colorado - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Brewer's Sparrow photos.

Audio File Credits:

1Ed Pandolfino. Recorded in Sierra County, California on June 1st, 2013. Original recording and information from xeno-canto.

2Andrew Spencer. Recorded in Gunnsion County, Colorado on July 5th, 2012. Original recording and information from xeno-canto.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Brewer's Sparrow - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon summer resident in the far western part of the state. 

Additional Brewer's Sparrow Photos
 Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Brewer's Sparrow 1 - Spizella breweriBrewer's Sparrow 2 - Spizella breweriBrewer's Sparrow 3 - Spizella breweriBrewer's Sparrow 4 - Spizella breweri