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Sage Sparrow

Amphispiza belli

Length: 6.25 inches Wingspan: 8.25 inches Seasonality: Very rare visitor
ID Keys: Bold white eyering and white whisker stripe, pale above and white below, black spot on center of chest

Sage Sparrow - Amphispiza belliThe Sage Sparrow is found in many open brushy habitats of the West.  The inland sub-species is much grayer and paler than the coastal subspecies, and research has indicated they may actually represent two different species.  While they breed as close as central Wyoming, they are only very rare visitors to South Dakota. 

Habitat: Breeds in open brushy country, in sagebrush habitats as well as brushy stands of saltbush, chamise, and other low shrubs of the arid West.  They winter in open flats, deserts, and dry chaparral of the Southwest.

Diet:  Eats many insects, especially during the summer months.  Will also feed on seeds.

Behavior: Primarily forages on the ground, sometimes low in brush and shrubs.

Breeding: No confirmed breeding has occurred in South Dakota.

Song: A high-pitched series of musical phrases

Migration: Those in western California are permanent residents, but most birds move southward into the deserts of the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico for the winter. 

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Sage Sparrow sightings

Similar Species: Lark Sparrow

Bird Feeders: Will occasionally come to feeders for baby chicken scratch feed.

Conservation Status: They are still common throughout much of the Great Basin of the West.  However, given the extreme decline in sage habitats in the West, declines may be expected.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Sage Sparrow

2) Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Sage Sparrow

3) Sage Sparrow

Photo Information: Taken in S.W. Idaho by Larry Barnes


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Sage Sparrow - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Very rare visitor, with only a handful of records in the state.

Additional Sage Sparrow Photos (Coming Soon!)