Florence Merriam Bailey.

Handbook of birds of the western United States : including the Great Plains, Great Basin, Pacific Slope, and lower Rio Grande Valley online

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marked with chalky white stre&ks ; edge of wing yellow ; tail rounded ;
under parts white, sides of throat, chest, and sides washed with buffy or
yellowish brown, and indistinctly streaked with darker. Young : upper
parts dull yellowish brown ; sides of crown chiefly black ; back broadly
streaked with black; under parts buff, streaked on chest with dusky.
Male: length (skins) 4.50-4.90, wing 2.10-2.48, tail 1.80-2.07, bill .40-.42.
Female : length (skins) 4.40-4.80, wing 2.05-2.20, tail 1.70-1.90, bill .40-

Distribution. Breeds in prairie marshes of the interior from Manitoba
to northern Illinois ; migrates to the Atlantic coast, and winters south to
Gulf coast of Texas ; accidental in California.

Eggs. Similar to those of leconteii.

Food. Insects, especially leaf -hoppers, midges, and horseflies, together
with weed seed.

5 5 Ob. Ammodramus maritimus sennetti Allen. TEXAS


Adults. Upper parts olive gray, streaked with black and whitish ; lores
and edge of wing bright yellow ; throat white ; rest of under parts grayish


or buffy, faintly streaked with gray. Young : upper parts grayish brown,
streaked with black ; under parts pale fulvous white, strongest on sides of
neck and flanks. Male: length (skins) 5.20-5.50, wing 2.30-2.42, tail
1.92-2.27, bill .50-.53. Female : length (skins) 4.95-5.40, wing 2.15-2.30,
tail 2.00-2.15, bill .49-. 52.

Distribution. Coast of Texas.

Eggs. 3 or 4, pale greenish white, finely spotted over entire surface
and wreathed around larger end with reddish brown and plum color.


General Characters. Bill conical ; wing long and pointed ; tail long,
rounded ; tarsus about twice as long as exposed culmen.


1. Averaging darker and grayer grammacus, p. 336.

1'. Averaging paler and browner strigatus, p. 336.

552. Chondestes grammacus (Say). LARK SPARROW.

Similar to the western lark sparrow, but averaging darker and grayer,
with black streaks on back broader and chestnut on head rather darker ;
wings and tail shorter. Male: length (skins) 5.50-6.40, wing 3.23-3.69,
tail 2.54-3.08, bill .41-.48. Female : length (skins) 5.80-6.15, wing 3.20-
3.38, tail 2.54-2.70, bill .44-.47.

Distribution. Breeds in Upper Sonoran zone in southern Ontario and
through the Mississippi Valley region to Texas and Alabama ; and from
Ohio west to western Nebraska ; casually to Atlantic coast and (during
migration) Florida.

Nest and eggs like those of strigatus.

652a. C. g. strigatus (Swains.). WESTERN LARK SPARROW.

Adults. Sides of head with chestnut patch and black and white streaks ;
crown chestnut, with white or buffy median stripe ; rest of upper parts
brownish gray, the back streaked with blackish ; tail blackish brown with
white corners, all but middle feathers tipped with white ; under parts white,
with a small black central spot on breast. Young : without chestnut patch
or black and white streaks on head ; entire upper parts buffy or brownish,
streaked ; chest with wedge-shaped blackish streaks. Male : length (skins)
5.60-6.60, wing 3.20-3.62, tail 2.52-3.00, bill .41-.54. Female: length
(skins) 5.50-6.75, wing 3.12-3.51, tail 2.40-2.81, bill .42-.51.

Distribution. Breeds in Transition and Upper Sonoran zones, from
British Columbia and Manitoba south to the plateau of Mexico, and from
the plains to California ; migrates to Guatemala.

Nest. On ground or in bushes or trees, sometimes in mistletoe or
mesquite, made of dried grasses, plant stems, and fibers. Eggs : 3 to 6,
white, sometimes with a faint bluish or brownish tinge, speckled and lined
chiefly on larger end with black and brown.

Food. Grasshoppers, locusts, and weevils, with seeds of weeds and
grass, and waste grain.

The lark sparrow is one of the commonest, most familiar western
birds, seeming equally at home when walking over the smooth lawn
of a Pasadena millionaire, singing from the top of the sagebrush, or
perching on a Spanish bayonet on a rocky Texas mesa.



As he sits he has a trick of raising his crown every few minutes,
calling especial attention to his directive face marking, and the
moment he flies his white tail crescent shows conspicuously.

He is much in evidence, not only from his abundance and his con-
spicuous markings but from his musical song, which is heard almost
continuously wherever he is found. The song is long and varied and
has a purring phrase which is especially characteristic. Like the
house finch he sings with fine fervor when dancing before his mate
with spread tail and quivering wings.


General Characters. Bill small, compressed, conical ; tail nearly or quite
as long as wing 1 , slightly rounded ; tarsus not more than a third the length
of tail.


1. Top of head wholly black or mottled querula, p. 337.

1'. Top of head striped.

2. Crown with yellow patch COronata, p. 839

2'. Crown striped black and white.

3. Throat with white patch albicollis, p. 340.

3'. Throat without white patch.

4. Lores black leucophrys, p. 338.

4'. Lores not black.

5. Back ashy, marked with brown .... gambelii, p. 339.
5'. Back olivaceous, marked with blackish . . nuttalli, p. 339.

553. Zonotrichia querula (Nutt.). HARRIS SPARROW.

Adults. Top of head and throat solid black, black streaking down
over middle of breast ; rest of under parts
white; sides and flanks buff y "brown, streaked
with darker brown ; upper parts brown ;
back and scapulars streaked with blackish ;
wings with two white bars. Young, first

plumage (described by Preble) : upper parts blackish, feathers edged with
buffy and brown ; wing quills edged with buff y and brown ; tail feathers
edged and tipped with whitish ; sides of head and under parts buffy ;
malar stripe conspicuous ; chest and sides streaked with black. Male :
length (skins) 6.46-7.33, wing 3.43-3.60, tail 3.14-3.3S, bill .50-.52. Fe-
male: length (skins) 6.66-6.95, wing 3.15-3.35, tail 3.04-3.16, bill .48-.51.

Remarks. Some specimens have black throat patch and crown feath-
ers tipped with grayish. Mr. Ridgway thinks these may be young birds.

Distribution. Breeds at Ft. Churchill, Hudson Bay, Artillery Lake,
and probably Great Bear Lake ; winters from Kansas to southern Texas.

Nest. One, on ground, under a dwarf birch, made of grass.

The breeding range of the Harris sparrow was unknown until
Mr. Treble's 1900 Fort Churchill record. The last of July among
the dwarf spruces of Fort Churchill he found an adult male and
female with young just from the nest. In 1907 the first nest was
found by Mr. E. T. Seton, at Artillery Lake, near Great Slave Lake,



The habits of the Harris sparrow are largely common to those of
the genus. In describing them Colonel Goss says: "The birds
inhabit the thickets bordering streams and the edges of low wood-
lands. They are usually met with in small flocks. A favorite resort
is in and about the brush heaps, where the land is being cleared.
They seldom mount high in the trees, but keep near the ground,
upon which they hunt and scratch among the leaves for seeds and
insect life.

" They commence singing early in the spring, and upon warm,
sunshiny days their song can be heard almost continually, as one
after the other pours forth its pleasing, plaintive, whistling notes, in
musical tone much like the white-throated sparrow, but delivered
in a widely different song." Prof. Cooke says that in addition to
their albicollis whistle they have a ' queer, chuckling note.' (See
Cooke on " Distribution and Migration of Zonotrichia querula,"
TJie Auk, i. 332.)

554. Zonotrichia leucophrys (Forst). WHITE-CROWNED SPAR-

Adult male. Top and sides of head striped with black and white, white

median stripe usually as wide as
adjoining black stripes; lores black,
white superciliary stripe not extend-
ing forward of eye ; edge of wing
white ; under parts plain gray ; back
with fore parts gray ; rump brown.
Adult female: like male and some-
times indistinguishable, but usually
with median crown stripe narrower
and grayer. Young : like adults, but
head stripes brown and buffy instead
of black and white ; under parts
buffy. and chest, sides of throat, and
sides streaked. Male : length (skins)
5.84-6.74. wing 2.98-3.28, tail 2.68-
3.23, bill .43-.47. Female: length
(skins) 6.00-6.63. wing 2.89-3.17, tail
2.69-3.00, bill .41-.47.

Distribution. Breeds in Upper
Canadian zone in the United States
and Canada, from Quebec and Labra-

Trom Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of


Fig. 426.

dor north to Hudson Bay and Green-

land and throughout most of the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains,
south to New Mexico and Arizona ; winters south through the United
States and Lower California to Guanajuato, Mexico.

Nest. On or near ground, in sub-alpine meadows, often in willows
along streams, made of fine twigs, rootlets, and grasses. Eggs : 3 to 5,
pale greenish blue, varying to brownish, spotted with reddish brown.

Food. Caterpillars, ants, wasps, and weed seed, including that of
Johnson grass and ragweed.

The white-crowned sparrow is preeminently the sparrow of the


mountains. Along the willow bordered streams that run through
the mountain meadows in the Sierra its thin, sharp chip of parental
anxiety is often heard, and its song dominates the bird chorus. The
song is composed of two long whistled notes, the first sliding up to
the second with grace notes, the second followed by a lower note
repeated rapidly three times. The two long whistled notes are rich
and plaintive in tone, suggesting the whistle of the pine woods
sparrow, and as they ring through the cool, pure air day after day
seem to give expression to the deep pervading peace and serenity of
the mountains.

554a. Z. 1. gambelii (Nutt.). GAMBEL SPARROW : INTERMEDIATE

S" 1 " * l ^phrys but lores not black, white superciliary stripe reach-
ing to bill. Male: length (skins) ,

5.85-6.48, wing 3.00-3.28, tail 2.58-
2.92, bill .39-.44. Female: length
(skins) 5.73-6.43, wing 2.90-3.25, tail
2.64-2.93, bill .39-.4S.

Distribution. Breeds from Alaska
to Montana and eastern Oregon ; mi-
grates south through the western
United States to Lower California
and Central Mexico ; straggling east
to Iowa.

Eggs. Similar to those of the
white -crowned, but cinnamon colored
or rusty style prevailing.

Food. Cutworms, caterpillars, and
other insects as well as weed seed.

554b. Z. 1. nuttalli Ridgw. NUTTALL SPARROW.

Adults. Like leucophrys, but lores not black and superciliary stripe
extending to bill ; median crown stripe usually narrower than lateral
stripes, edge of wing yellow, and adults with upper parts brown instead of
gray, streamings dark brown or blackish, and under parts brownish gray.
Young: groundcolor of upper parts light buff y olive ; under parts pale
yellowish. Male : length (skins) 5.86-6.67, wing 2.83-2.96, tail 2.68-2.96,
bill .41-47. Female : length (skins) 5.37-6.40, wing 2.66-2.79, tail 2.50-
2.73, bill .S9-.47.

Remarks. Of the three sparrows, the white-crown, the Nuttall, and the
Gambel, the white-crown may be distinguished by its black or dark brown
lores ; the adult Nuttall sparrow by brownish instead of grayish coloration ;
and usually a median crown stripe that is narrower than the lateral
stripes ; and the adult Gambel by the combination of white lores, gray
coloration, and broad median crown stripe.

Distribution. Breeds from British Columbia to Monterey, California ;
migrates to Lower California.

Food. Insects, grain, and weed seed.

557. Zonotrichia coronata (Pall.). GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW.
Adults. Crown inclosed by black stripes, with median stripe yellow in


front, ash gray behind; rest of upper part olive brown, streaked on back

with blackish brown : rump and tail plain ;

wing with two white bands ; under parts
gray ; sides and flanks washed with brown.
Young : similar, but black crown stripes

Fig. 428. Golden-crowned Sparrow. replaced by brown strea ked with black,

and median stripe dull brownish yellow flecked or streaked with dusky,
the ash gray wanting ; upper parts washed with brownish ; under parts
soiled whitish. Male : length (skins) 5.93-7.13, wing 2.99-3.28, tail 2.89-
3.28, bill .44-.S2. Female : length (skins) 6.15-6.65, wing 2.90-3.17, tail
2.71-3.25, bill .45-.50.

Distribution. Breeds in Alaska ; migrates south along the Pacific coast
to Lower California, straggling east to Nevada, Colorado, and Wisconsin.

Nest. In alder patches. Eggs : usually 5, colored like the more dis-
tinctly spotted style of the white-crowned sparrow.

In winter the golden-crowns are among the common birds of the
San Francisco parks and cemeteries and are so tame they will hop
over the grass and down the paths close to the bench on which you
are sitting. The sparrow flock usually includes more white-crowns
than goldens, but all are equally and delightfully familiar. In some
of the parks the birds seem especially fond of sunning themselves
on the budding Laurestinus bushes.

Though the golden-crowns live mainly on seeds, you often see
one jump up from the ground for an insect or run after one and
swallow it as unconcernedly as if he were not supposed to be a

In Los Angeles County, Mr. Grinnell says, they winter commonly
from the mesas up to 5000 feet on the bushy mountain sides.

568. Zonotrichia albicollis (Gmel.). WHITE-THROATED SPARROW.
Adult male. Throat pure white sharply contrasted with gray of breast ;
head striped with black and white ; superciliary yellow from bill to eyes ;
edge of wing yellow ; back and scapulars rusty brown streaked
with blackish ; rump olivaceous or brownish. Adult female;
' sometimes indistinguishable from male, but usually with col-
oration of head and under parts decidedly duller, crown stripe
tinged with brown and buffy. Young in first winter : like
Fig. 429. adult female, but duller, crown stripes browner. Young:
throat not distinctly whitish, and stripes on head brown and buffy instead
of black and white ; yellow in front of eyes more or less distinct ; under
parts brownish white, streaked, except on belly. Male : length (skins)
6.12-6.56, wing 2.85-3.04, tail 2.80-3.00, bill .42-.4S. Female: length
(skins) 5.91-6.30, wing 2.74-2.88, tail 2.68-2.90, bill .44-.46.

Remarks. The young of albicollis can be distinguished from that of
leucophrys by their deeper brown lateral crown stripes and more rusty
back and wings.

Distribution. Breeds in Canadian and Hudsonian zones from Hudson
Bay and Labrador south to the northern United States, chiefly east, but
also in Montana and Wyoming ; winters to Florida and southern Texas,
straggling west to Oregon and California.

Nest. On the ground or in bushes, made largely of coarse grasses,


rootlets, moss, and strips of bark, lined with finer grasses. Eggs : 4 or 5,
finely and evenly speckled or heavily and irregularly blotched with
Food. Insects, weed seed, and wild berries.

The white-throated sparrow is one of the best whistlers of the
musical genus Zonotrichia, his clear I, I, pea-body, pea-body, pea-
body, ringing finely through the spring air. Though chiefly an east-
ern bird, he may be seen in Montana and Wyoming.


General Characters. Wing less than 3 ; bill small, conical ; tail emar-
ginate or double rounded, middle feathers shorter than longest ; tarsus
about length of middle toe with claw.


1. Bill reddish brown or orange.
2. Chin black, head slaty gray ...... atrogularis, p. 345.

2'. Chin whitish, head rufous and buffy .... areiiacea, p. 344.

1'. Bill black or yellowish brown.
2. Crown rufous.

3. Breast with pectoral blotch ochracea, p. 341.

3'. Breast without pectoral blotch.

4. Forehead and streak behind eye black. Rocky Mountains to

Pacific coast arizoiiae, p. 342.

4'. Forehead without black and no black streak behind eye.

wortheni, p. 344.
2'. Crown without rufous.

3. Head and back grayish brown, uniformly and finely streaked with

black breweri, p. 343.

3'. Head and back gray and buffy, coarsely and irregularly streaked
with black. Plains pallida, p. 342.

559a. Spizella monticola ochracea Brewst. WESTEBN TREE

Adults. Bill yeHow in adults ; crown, stripe behind eye, and patch
on sides of chest rufous, crown often, especially
in winter, with ashy median stripe, or rufous
obscured by grayish edges to feathers ; middle of
back buffy, streaked with black and rusty ; wings ^B- 43 -

with two conspicuous white bars ; under parts grayish, chest with small
dusky spot. Young : streaked beneath. Male : length (skins) 5.61-6.00,
wing 2.87-3.24, tail 2.59-2.88, bill .38-.41. Female : length (skins) 5.41-
5.69, wing 2.87-3.10, tail 2.60-2.70, bill .35-.39.

Distribution. Breeds from near the arctic coast through Alaska ;
migrates as far east as the eastern border of the Plains, and south to New
Mexico, Texas, and Arizona.

Nest. On ground or in low bushes, composed largely of dried grass
and feathers. Eggs: 3 to 5, pale greenish blue, varying to brownish,
speckled with reddish brown.

Food. Mainly seeds, largely weed seed.

In its Alaskan home Mr. Nelson says the western tree sparrow is
the most numerous of the sparrows that frequent the bushes, espe-


cially along the coast of Bering Sea, where, on entering a thicket,
the protesting tsip of the gentle bird may be heard on all sides.

Coming south in fall, ochracea reaches Colorado in October and
spends the winter, Prof. Cooke says, on the Plains and the lower
part of the mountains, being common up to 7000 feet and occa-
sionally seen as high as 9000 feet.

560a. Spizella socialis arizonse Coues. WESTERN CHIPPING


Adults in summer. Bill black ; top of head rufous, sometimes with in-
dication of ashy median line and dark streak-
ing 1 ; forehead blackish, cut by median white
line ; superciliary stripe white or grayish,
bordered below by narrow black eye stripe;
back brownish or pale buffy, streaked with
black ; rump and upper tail coverts gray ;
sides of head dull gray ; under parts white or
ashy. Adults in winter : similar, but colors dul-
ler and darker, tinged with brown on lower
parts, black on forehead obscure or wanting,
crown usually streaked with dusky, bill
brown. Young: top of head brownish,
streaked with blackish ; superciliary buffy,
streaked ; breast streaked ; tarsus less than
twice as long as bill. Male : length (skins) 4.82-5.43, wing 2.64-3.00, tail
2.11-2.57, bill .36-.41. Female: length (skins) 4.87-5.26, wing 2.62-2.98.
tail 2.12-2.42, bill .35-.40.

Remarks. The paler coloration of the western chipping sparrow dis-
tinguishes it from the eastern, while the absence of pectoral blotch and
striking wing bars distinguishes it from the western tree sparrow, and
the black marks on the forehead and behind the eye still further separate
it from the Worthen sparrow.

Distribution. Breeds in Transition and Upper Sonoran zones from
Alaska, perhaps to northern Mexico, and from the Rocky Mountains and
western Texas to the Pacific coast ; migrates to Lower California and
southern border of Mexican tablelands.

Nest . In trees or bushes, made of grass stems and lined with horse-
hair. Eggs : 3 to 5, light greenish blue, speckled chiefly around the
larger end with black and brown.

Food. Mainly caterpillars and other injurious insects and weed seed.

In southern California, Mr. Grinnell says the western chippy is
common about gardens and orchards in the mesa regions, breeding
in the conifers on the mountains to 8500 feet. In Colorado and
Arizona it breeds up to nearly 10,000 feet, though most commonly
from 6000 to 7000 feet.

At St. Mary's Lake, Montana, Mr. Howell heard one sing near his
camp several nights as late as nine o'clock.

561. Spizella pallida (Swains.). CLAY-COLOBED SPARKOW.

Adults in summer. Crown light brown with pale median stripe and
Mack-streaked sides; superciliary buffy or whitish; sides of head buffy


brown bordered above and below by narrow blackish streak ; malar region
whitish, bordered below by dusky streak along- side of throat ; hind neck
gray, narrowly streaked; back and scapulars brown, broadly streaked
with black ; wing bars buffy ; under parts whitish, washed with brown on
chest and sides. Adults in winter : crown streaks narrower, and plumage
more buffy. Young : upper parts buffy or clay-colored ; chest and sides
buffy, streaked with black. Male: length (skins) 4.64-5.41, wing 2.34-
2.49, tail 2.18-2.44, bill .S4.-.39. Female: length (skins) 4.64-5.25, wing
2.28-2.51, tail 2.08-2.40, bill .S5-.39.

Remarks. The clay-colored and the Brewer sparrow both have
streaked upper parts, but the clay-colored has a median crown stripe and
plain gray hind neck, while the Brewer is uniformly streaked on head,
neck, and back.

Distribution. Breeds in Transition and Canadian zone from the Sas-
katchewan plains south to Iowa and Nebraska and from Illinois west to
western Montana ; migrates south to Lower California and southern end of
Mexican tablelands.

Nest. In bushes in open situations. Eggs : usually 4, light greenish
blue, speckled chiefly around the larger end with brown.

The clay-colored sparrow is said to be almost exclusively terres-
trial, though during the nesting season the males sing from the tops
of bushes almost continually. The song Coues gives as three notes
and a slight trill. Along the Red River in Dakota, he says, they
nest in "open low underbrush by the river side and among the
innumerable scrub- willow copses of the valley."

562. Spizella brewer! Cass. BREWER SPARROW.

Adults. Entire upper parts streaked with black on grayish brown
ground ; under parts soiled grayish. In
winter, similar but more buffy. Young:
like adults, but chest and sides streaked,
streaks of upper parts broader and less
sharply defined, and wings with two dis-
tinct bands. Male: length (skins) 4.74-
5.13, wing 2.37-2.59, tail 2.26-2.44, bill .34-
.35. Female: length (skins) 4.60-5.19,
wing 2.20-2.59, tail 2.26-2.50, bill .S4-.36.

Distribution. Breeds in Transition zone _,. .

sagebrush from British Columbia south to

southern Arizona, and from western Nebraska and western Texas to the
Pacific coast ; south in winter along the western border of the Mexican

Nest. In sagebrush, made of fine grass stems and leaves, lined with
long horsehairs. Eggs : usually 4, and generally like those of the clay-
colored sparrow, but more distinctly marked.

The Brewer sparrow, known locally as the sagebrush chippie, is
marked down as an ' arid transition ' species, and, true to his zonal
colors, if any arid transition sagebrush strays to the sunny side of a
high mountain ridge he will appear there with it, though his normal
home is in the bottom of a desert. We once found him singing at
8400 feet on the snowy crest of the Sierra, but on the sunny slope
below was the inevitable sage.


When among its favorite bushes the small sparrow is hard to see,
for its quick darting flight ends on the earth and it runs over the
ground like a mouse. The best view you can get of it is when it
mounts a bush and throws up its finely striped head to sing. And
what an odd little song it gives ! It has the metallic, insect-like
quality of a marsh wren's song, and something the jingle of a
canary's, but though unmusical the ditty is so cheery and bright as
to be distinctly pi easing r

The sparrows' morning and evening choruses are especially interest-
ing, the evening the more so perhaps when the birds are feeding-
young, as they have more time when their broods are attended to
for the night. I heard the chorus for the first time in Sierra Valley,
California, when we rode in through the sagebrush and camped on
the edge of the pines just at sunset. The curious little tinkling
song was coming up from all over the brush, and it seemed as if we
had come upon a marsh full of singing, though subdued, marsh

563a. Spizella pusilla arenacea Chadb. WESTERN FIELD SPARROW.

Adults. Bill rufous or orange ; broad median crown stripe and some-
times whole crown gray between reddish brown lateral stripes, which are
sometimes indistinct ; postocular streak rufous ; back grayish, rufous, and
buffy, streaked with black ; wing with two distinct bars ; under parts
whitish, slightly tinged with rufous. Young : similar but colors duller
and more suffused ; markings of head less distinct and lower parts streaked.

Online LibraryFlorence Merriam BaileyHandbook of birds of the western United States : including the Great Plains, Great Basin, Pacific Slope, and lower Rio Grande Valley → online text (page 39 of 65)