Brewer’s Sparrow

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Southern Arizona has its share of year-round and seasonal sparrows.  There are at least 15 sparrow species that show up here for all or part of the year.  One is unlikely, however, to see more than a couple of species in any location.  Many sparrow species are habitat specific — they know what they like and they avoid what they don’t like.

That’s certainly true with Brewer’s Sparrow.  This is a western species that spends its summers on the northern plains and its winters in the southwest, including southern California, Arizona and New Mexico, and southwestern Texas.  It is a species that nests in sagebrush and winters in grassy areas.  One would never find this bird in the desert near Tucson or in our riparian areas.

I photographed this individual foraging on the Empire Ranch near Sonoita, about 50 miles southeast of Tucson.  It is an area of gently rolling hills covered with grass and low shrubs and trees, precisely the habitat that this sparrow prefers.

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The field guides describe Brewer’s Sparrow as “drab,” albeit praising its melodic song.  I beg to differ.  To my eye, this is a very pretty little bird.  I find its plumage, in subtle shades of beige, deep brown, and white, with rufous touches here and there, to be quite attractive.

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Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm ISII zoom lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/1250.

2 responses to “Brewer’s Sparrow”

  1. Pale Hjertaas says :

    It’s true there are more Brewer’s Sparrows in the grasslands areas like Buenos Aires NWR and Empire Ranch, however they are not totally absent from the desert. In years with more moisture in the winter (not this year, unfortunately) Brewer’s Sparrows have been relatively common in moist areas with enough grass with seeds and tall weedy plants full of seeds like around some man-made tanks. This year, the desert was s very dry in early winter that most shrubs were leafless and there were no annuals, not even dried up ones. Also the ranchers had let out the cattle everywhere since late last winter and they ate and trampled everything as well as significantly opened up such moist areas with paths everywhere. Also, when the palo verdes were blooming last spring, the town was overrun with Brewer’s Sparrows in migration for a few days.

  2. Liesl Kii says :

    I don’t think he’s drab either, but he certainly blends into his environment.

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