South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Clay-colored Sparrow

Spizella pallida

Length: 5.5 inches Wingspan: 8 inches Seasonality: Migrant / Summer
ID Keys: Brown ear patches with dark outline, white central crown stripe, dark mustache stripe

Clay-colored Sparrow - Spizella pallidaClay-colored sparrows can be a fairly common sight during the summer in the northern tier of U.S. states.  Males are easily observed as they sing their buzzy song from a high perch in their territory.  They can sometimes be found in mixed flocks with Chipping Sparrows or Brewer's Sparrows (western South Dakota only for the latter). 

Habitat: Prefers shrubby grasslands for breeding.  This can also include woodland edges, fence lines, and the shrubby understory of forest areas.  They also prefer brushy areas during migration and in winter.

Diet: The major diet item is seeds, which it consumes in quantity at all seasons.  Other vegetative matter includes berries, fruits, leaf-buds, and new shoots.  They also feed heavily on insects during the summer.

Behavior: Does most of its foraging on the ground or low in shrubbery and other vegetation.

Nesting: June and July

Breeding Map: Breeding Bird Survey Map

Song: Series of three to five identical raspy buzzes.

Migration: Summers in the northern tier of U.S. states, and southern Canada.  Winters in the southern tip of Texas and points south.

Similar Species: Brewer's Sparrow; Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow

Bird Feeders: Will attend feeders for grains, seeds, and breadcrumbs.

Conservation Status: Surveys hint at a slight decline in recent decades.  Reasons are unknown, but they are a fairly common victim of Brown-headed Cowbird parasitism.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Clay-colored Sparrow

2) eNature.com: Clay-colored Sparrow.

Photo Information: October 7th, 2006 - Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Clay-colored Sparrow photos.

 

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Clay-colored Sparrow - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant across the sate.  Uncommon summer breeding resident in the northeast and north-central.