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Cassin's Sparrow

Aimophila cassinii

Length: 6 inches Wingspan: 9 inches Seasonality: Extremely rare visitor
ID Keys: Plain, with long-tail, grayish brown upperparts with black and brown streaks, whitish-gray throat and chin with thin dark malar mark, buffy-white underparts.

Cassin's Sparrow - Aimophila cassiniiCassin's Sparrow is a rather non-descript nomadic species of the southern Great Plains.  They can be extremely common in some years and largely absent the next, with numbers often being much higher after good rains have resulted in relatively lush grasslands.  Their nomadic behavior also includes occasional wanderings far beyond their normal range, as they have been found in states from coast to coast.  

Habitat: Found in brushy grasslands, both those composed primarily of thick brush with an understory of grass, and those composed primarily of grassland with a few scattered bushes.

Diet: The summer diet is primarily insects, while the seeds and grain make up a large portion of the winter diet.

Behavior: Forages almost entirely on the ground, usually in open or semi-open environments.  

Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota.

Song: Short notes leading to a long musical trill. Click here to listen to the Cassin's Sparrow song.

Migration: Summers in the southern Great Plains.  Winters in extreme southern Texas and New Mexico, and Mexico.

Interactive eBird Map: Click for access to an interactive eBird map of Cassin's Sparrow sightings

Feeders: Will attend feeders for corn and other grains.

Similar Species: Brewer's Sparrow, Botteri's Sparrow

Conservation Status: Numbers are generally stable.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Cassin's Sparrow

2) Audubon Guide - Cassin's Sparrow

3) WhatBird - Cassin's Sparrow

Photo Information: November 10th, 2015 - Las Cinegas Natural Resource Area, near Tucson, Arizona - Terry Sohl


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Cassin's Sparrow - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Very rare visitor, with SDOU's "Birds of South Dakota" only indicating one sighting in the state, in Fall River County in 1977.

Additional Cassin's Sparrow Photos
 Cassin's Sparrow - Aimophila cassiniiCassin's Sparrow - Aimophila cassiniiCassin's Sparrow - Aimophila cassiniiCassin's Sparrow - Aimophila cassinii