Slight sexual dimorphism in color and size. Typical of genus Spizella
—small size, slim build, notched tail and wing bars. Adult plumage upperparts a mixture of grays and browns with sharp blackish streakings, unstreaked grayish-white underparts. Head markings distinctive: gray or white median crown stripe, brown ear patches outlined with dark brown, dark whisker, gray nuchal collar contrasting with rest of plumage, flesh-colored bill dusky above and at tip. Brown rump and head markings separate it from Chipping Sparrow. Similar to Brewer’s Sparrow, but with more strongly patterned head markings, especially rich brown sides of crown overlain with wide black streaks contrasting at a distance with pale supercilium and median crown stripe (Kaufman 1999, Knapton 1994).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
eBird Occurrence Map
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Species prefers open shrubland, thickets along edges of waterways, second-growth areas, and forest edges and burns.
Diet consists of numerous varieties of seeds and invertebrates.
Double brooded species with three to four eggs per brood. Incubation period 10 to 12 days. Young able to fly eight to nine days after hatch.