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threatened and/or endangered

Clay-colored Sparrow Spizella pallida


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Clay-colored Sparrow
credit:  goingslo on Flickr/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Emberizidae, New World Sparrows view all from this family

Description ADULT BREEDING Has heavily dark-streaked brown back and brown wings with two white wing bars; note the buffy brown rump. Nape is gray, crown is brown, and has whitish supercilium; brown ear coverts are defined above by dark eyestripe and below by dark malar stripe, and note white "mustache" and throat. Underparts are otherwise gray-buff. ADULT NONBREEDING Paler and more buff overall, most noticeably on underparts and supercilium. JUVENILE Similar to nonbreeding adult, but heavily streaked below.

Dimensions Length: 5-5 1/2" (13-14 cm)

Habitat Fairly common summer visitor (mainly May-Aug) to grassland and prairies; winters in similar habitats, mainly in Mexico (scarce in southern Texas).

Observation Tips Fairly easy to see on breeding grounds.

Range Eastern Canada, Alaska, California, Rocky Mountains, Plains, Southeast, Western Canada, New England, Northwest, Great Lakes, Texas, Florida, Southwest, Mid-Atlantic

Voice Song is a series of breezy, vibrating, buzzing trills, vaguely cricketlike; call is a thin tzip.

Discussion Fairly distinctive when breeding, but nonbreeding birds are similar to Chipping Sparrow. At that time, Chipping has richer brown upperparts, with more contrasting face pattern: darker eyestripe, paler supercilium, and more rufous crown. Forms flocks outside breeding season. Sexes are similar.