Spizella breweri - Cassin, 1856
Brewer's Sparrow
Other English Common Names: Brewer's sparrow
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Spizella breweri Cassin, 1856 (TSN 179440)
French Common Names: bruant de Brewer
Spanish Common Names: Gorrión de Brewer
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.100732
Element Code: ABPBX94040
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Perching Birds
Image 10777

© Dick Cannings

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Passeriformes Passerellidae Spizella
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Spizella breweri
Taxonomic Comments: The taxonomic status of the two subspecies S. b. breweri and S. b. taverneri is controversial. Sibley and Monroe (1990) cited personal communications from J. C. Barlow and W. B. McGillivray in listing S. taverneri as a distinct species (breeding in the subalpine shrublands of western Canada), based on differences in vocalizations, morphology, and ecology (see also AOU 1998, Rotenberry et al. 1999). Klicka et al. (1999) also concluded that the two taxa should be regarded as separate species; this conclusion, however, was disputed by Mayr and Johnson (2001).

See Zink and Dittmann (1993) for a hypothesis for evolution in the genus Spizella. See Dodge et al. (1995) for a comparison of phylogenies derived from two molecular data sets for the genus Spizella; among other results, monophyly of Spizella including the American Tree Sparrow was supported.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 09Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 04Dec1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Fairly large range in western North America; declining in many areas of the U.S.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5B,N5N (05Jan1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N4N5B,N4N5M (25Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alaska (S2B), Arizona (S5), California (S4), Colorado (S4B), Idaho (S4B), Kansas (S1B), Montana (S3B), Navajo Nation (S5), Nebraska (S4), Nevada (S4B), New Mexico (S3B,S4N), North Dakota (S3), Oklahoma (S2N), Oregon (S4B), South Dakota (S2B), Texas (S4), Utah (S4B), Washington (S2S3B), Wyoming (S5)
Canada Alberta (S3S4B), British Columbia (S4?B), Saskatchewan (S4B), Yukon Territory (S3B)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: BREEDING: subspecies BREWERI: southern British Columbia, southern Alberta, southwestern Saskatchewan, Montana, and southwestern North Dakota, south to southern California (northern Mojave Desert), southern Nevada, central Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, central Colorado, southwestern Kansas, northwestern Nebraska, and southwestern South Dakota (AOU 1998, Rotenberry et al. 1999). Mapped BBS data show centers of summer abundance in the Great Basin and Wyoming Basin (Sauer et al. 1997). Subspecies TAVERNERI: southwest Alberta, northwest British Columbia, southwest Yukon, and southeast Alaska (Rotenberry et al. 1999). NON-BREEDING: southern California, southern Nevada, western and central Arizona, southern New Mexico, and west Texas, south to southern Baja California, Sonora, and in highlands from Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Nuevo Leon south to northern Jalisco and Guanajuato (Terres 1980, AOU 1998, Rotenberry et al. 1999). Highest wintering abundance in Arizona (21.41 birds per 100 survey hours) 1959-1988 (Sauer et al. 1996).

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Number of occurrences not known but relatively widespread.

Population Size: 10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Numbers highly variable by habitat and year. Plot counts during the breeding-season revealed various densities (birds per square kilometer): in Montana, about 200; in southeastern Idaho, 116-192; in central Oregon, 111-277. Transect counts revealed between 29 and 533 birds per square kilometer in Oregon (Rotenberry et al 1999). North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data 1966 - 1996 shows highest relative abundance (birds per route) in Nevada (28.67) and Oregon (29.86); survey-wide, the relative abundance is 9.21 (Sauer et al. 1997). In winter, survey-wide Christmas Bird Count (CBC) data show 5.24 birds per 100 survey hours, 1959-1988.

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Direct cause of widespread decline on breeding grounds is uncertain, but possibly linked to widespread degradation of sagebrush habitats.

HABITAT LOSS, FRAGMENTATION: A shrub obligate that is threatened by large scale reduction and fragmentation of sagebrush habitats occurring due to a number of activities, including land conversion to tilled agriculture, urban and suburban development, and road and power-line rights of way. Range improvement programs remove sagebrush by burning, herbicide application, and mechanical treatment, replacing sagebrush with annual grassland to promote forage for livestock.

GRAZING: Grazing can trigger a cascade of ecological changes, the most dramatic where invasion of non-native grasses escalates the fire cycle and converts sagebrush shrublands to annual grasslands. Historical heavy livestock grazing altered much of the sagebrush range, changing plant composition and densities. West (1988, 1996) estimates less than 1 percent of sagebrush steppe habitats remain untouched by livestock; 20 percent is lightly grazed, 30 percent moderately grazed with native understory remaining, and 30 percent heavily grazed with understory replaced by invasive annuals. Effects of grazing in sagebrush habitats complex depending on intensity, season, duration and extent of alteration to native vegetation.

INVASIVE GRASSES: Cheatgrass readily invades disturbed sites, and has come to dominate the grass-forb community of more than half the sagebrush region in the West, replacing native bunchgrasses (Rich 1996). Crested wheatgrass and other non-native annuals have also fundamentally altered the grass-forb community in many areas of sagebrush shrub-steppe, altering shrubland habitats.

FIRE: Cheatgrass has altered the natural fire regime in the western range, increasing the frequency, intensity, and size of range fires. Fire kills sagebrush and where non-native grasses dominate, the landscape can be converted to annual grassland as the fire cycle escalates, removing preferred habitat (Paige and Ritter 1998).

BROOD PARASITISM: An occasional host for brown-headed cowbird (MOLOTHRUS ATER). Prior to European-American settlement, were probably largely isolated from cowbird parasitism, but are now vulnerable as cowbird populations increase throughout the West and where the presence of livestock and pastures, land conversion to agriculture, and fragmentation of shrublands creates a contact zone between the species (Rich 1978, Rothstein 1994). Frequency of parasitism varies geographically: 13 percent in Idaho, 5 percent in central Oregon, 0 percent in northern Nevada, 52 percent in southeastern Alberta. Extent of impact on productivity unknown (Rotenberry et al. 1999). Usually abandoned parasitized nests and cowbird productivity was lower than Brewer's (Biermann et al. 1987). Rich (1978) also observed cowbird parasitism on two nests in Idaho, both of which were abandoned.

PREDATORS: Intense episodic predation by Townsend's ground squirrel (SPERMOHPILUS TOWNSENDII). Other documented or suspected nest predators (of eggs and nestlings) include: gopher snake (PITUOPHIS MELANOLEUCUS), loggerhead shrike (LANIUS LUDOVICIANUS), common raven (CORVUS CORAX), black-billed magpie (PICA PICA), long-tailed weasel (MUSTELA FRENATA), least chipmunk (TAMIAS MINIMUS), western rattlesnake (CROTALUS VIRIDIS), and other snake species. Nest predation significant cause of nest failure; impacts vary geographically and temporally. In 1976-1977, predation rate ranged from 11 percent in Oregon to 86 percent in Idaho and 100 percent in Nevada. Predation ranged from 0 to 37 percent in Oregon, 1976-1980.

American kestrel (FALCO SPARVERIUS), prairie falcon (FALCO MEXICANUS), loggerhead shrike, coachwhip (MASTICOPHIS FLAGELLUM) reported preying on adults (Rotenberry et al. 1999). Significant negative correlation between loggerhead shrike and Brewer's sparrow density observed (Wiens and Rotenberry 1981). Levels of predation during non-breeding season have not been reported.

PESTICIDES: Potentially affected by insect or weed control programs. Nest success not affected by applying 2,4-D Herbicide on big sagebrush plants with nests. Bird densities on treated area, however, were 67 percent lower one year after application and 99 percent lower two years after application (Schroeder and Sturges 1975).

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Short-term Trend Comments: Often the most abundant bird species in appropriate sagebrush habitats. Significant decline, however, throughout range during last 10-20 years (Rotenberry et al. 1999). Saab and Rich (1997) categorize it as a species of high management concern in the Columbia River Basin. North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data for 1966-1996 show significant and strong survey-wide declines averaging -3.7 percent per year (n = 397 survey routes). Significant declines evident in California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Wyoming; steepest significant decline evident in Idaho (-6.0 percent average per year; n = 39). These negative trends appear to be consistent throughout the 30-year survey period. Only Utah shows an apparently stable population. No state or physiographic region shows increases. Sample sizes for Washington are too small for an accurate estimate. Christmas Bird Count (CBC) data for the U.S. for the period 1959-1988 indicate a stable survey-wide trend (0.2 percent average annual increase; n = 116 survey circles), and a significantly positive trend in Texas (6.7 percent average annual increase; n = 33). California and New Mexico show nonsignificant increases for the same period. Arizona shows a nonsignificant decline (-1.4 percent average annual decline; n = 34). Note that although positively correlated with presence of sage thrashers (OREOSCOPTES MONTANUS), probably due to similarities in habitat relations (Wiens and Rotenberry 1981), thrashers are not exhibiting the same steep and widespread declines evident in BBS data (see Sauer et al. 1997).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: subspecies BREWERI: southern British Columbia, southern Alberta, southwestern Saskatchewan, Montana, and southwestern North Dakota, south to southern California (northern Mojave Desert), southern Nevada, central Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, central Colorado, southwestern Kansas, northwestern Nebraska, and southwestern South Dakota (AOU 1998, Rotenberry et al. 1999). Mapped BBS data show centers of summer abundance in the Great Basin and Wyoming Basin (Sauer et al. 1997). Subspecies TAVERNERI: southwest Alberta, northwest British Columbia, southwest Yukon, and southeast Alaska (Rotenberry et al. 1999). NON-BREEDING: southern California, southern Nevada, western and central Arizona, southern New Mexico, and west Texas, south to southern Baja California, Sonora, and in highlands from Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Nuevo Leon south to northern Jalisco and Guanajuato (Terres 1980, AOU 1998, Rotenberry et al. 1999). Highest wintering abundance in Arizona (21.41 birds per 100 survey hours) 1959-1988 (Sauer et al. 1996).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AK, AZ, CA, CO, ID, KS, MT, ND, NE, NM, NN, NV, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY
Canada AB, BC, SK, YT

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; WILDSPACETM 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CA Mono (06051)
KS Cheyenne (20023), Logan (20109), Morton (20129), Seward (20175), Sherman (20181), Stevens (20189), Wallace (20199)
MT Beaverhead (30001), Big Horn (30003), Blaine (30005), Broadwater (30007), Carbon (30009), Carter (30011), Chouteau (30015), Custer (30017), Dawson (30021), Deer Lodge (30023), Fallon (30025), Fergus (30027), Flathead (30029), Gallatin (30031), Garfield (30033), Glacier (30035), Golden Valley (30037), Granite (30039), Hill (30041), Jefferson (30043), Lake (30047), Lewis and Clark (30049), Liberty (30051), Lincoln (30053), Madison (30057), McCone (30055), Meagher (30059), Missoula (30063), Musselshell (30065), Park (30067), Petroleum (30069), Phillips (30071), Pondera (30073), Powder River (30075), Powell (30077), Prairie (30079), Ravalli (30081), Richland (30083), Roosevelt (30085), Rosebud (30087), Sanders (30089), Silver Bow (30093), Stillwater (30095), Sweet Grass (30097), Teton (30099), Toole (30101), Treasure (30103), Valley (30105), Wheatland (30107), Wibaux (30109), Yellowstone (30111)
ND Billings (38007), Bowman (38011), Golden Valley (38033), McLean (38055)*, Oliver (38065), Slope (38087)
NE Box Butte (31013), Dundy (31057), Kimball (31105)
SD Butte (46019), Fall River (46047), Harding (46063)
UT Beaver (49001), Box Elder (49003), Daggett (49009), Davis (49011), Duchesne (49013), Iron (49021), Kane (49025), San Juan (49037), Tooele (49045), Uintah (49047), Wasatch (49051)*, Washington (49053)
WY Albany (56001), Big Horn (56003), Campbell (56005), Carbon (56007), Converse (56009), Crook (56011), Fremont (56013), Goshen (56015), Hot Springs (56017), Johnson (56019), Laramie (56021), Lincoln (56023), Natrona (56025), Niobrara (56027), Park (56029), Platte (56031), Sheridan (56033), Sublette (56035), Sweetwater (56037), Teton (56039), Uinta (56041), Washakie (56043), Weston (56045)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
10 Red Rock (10020001)+, Beaverhead (10020002)+, Ruby (10020003)+, Big Hole (10020004)+, Jefferson (10020005)+, Boulder (10020006)+, Madison (10020007)+, Gallatin (10020008)+, Upper Missouri (10030101)+, Upper Missouri-Dearborn (10030102)+, Smith (10030103)+, Sun (10030104)+, Two Medicine (10030201)+, Cut Bank (10030202)+, Marias (10030203)+, Willow (10030204)+, Teton (10030205)+, Bullwhacker-Dog (10040101)+, Arrow (10040102)+, Fort Peck Reservoir (10040104)+, Big Dry (10040105)+, Little Dry (10040106)+, Upper Musselshell (10040201)+, Middle Musselshell (10040202)+, Flatwillow (10040203)+, Box Elder (10040204)+, Lower Musselshell (10040205)+, Upper Milk (10050002)+, Middle Milk (10050004)+, Big Sandy (10050005)+, Sage (10050006)+, Lodge (10050007)+, Battle (10050008)+, Peoples (10050009)+, Cottonwood (10050010)+, Whitewater (10050011)+, Lower Milk (10050012)+, Frenchman (10050013)+, Beaver (10050014)+, Rock (10050015)+, Porcupine (10050016)+, Prarie Elk-Wolf (10060001)+, Redwater (10060002)+, Charlie-Little Muddy (10060005)+, Yellowstone Headwaters (10070001)+, Upper Yellowstone (10070002)+, Shields (10070003)+, Upper Yellowstone-Lake Basin (10070004)+, Stillwater (10070005)+, Clarks Fork Yellowstone (10070006)+, Upper Yellowstone-Pompeys Pillar (10070007)+, Upper Wind (10080001)+, Little Wind (10080002)+, Popo Agie (10080003)+, Muskrat (10080004)+, Lower Wind (10080005)+, Badwater (10080006)+, Upper Bighorn (10080007)+, Nowood (10080008)+, Greybull (10080009)+, Big Horn Lake (10080010)+, Dry (10080011)+, North Fork Shoshone (10080012)+, South Fork Shoshone (10080013)+, Shoshone (10080014)+, Lower Bighorn (10080015)+, Little Bighorn (10080016)+, Upper Tongue (10090101)+, Lower Tongue (10090102)+, Middle Fork Powder (10090201)+, Upper Powder (10090202)+, South Fork Powder (10090203)+, Salt (10090204)+, Crazy Woman (10090205)+, Clear (10090206)+, Middle Powder (10090207)+, Little Powder (10090208)+, Lower Powder (10090209)+, Mizpah (10090210)+, Lower Yellowstone-Sunday (10100001)+, Big Porcupine (10100002)+, Rosebud (10100003)+, Lower Yellowstone (10100004)+, O'fallon (10100005)+, Upper Little Missouri (10110201)+, Boxelder (10110202)+, Middle Little Missouri (10110203)+, Beaver (10110204)+, Antelope (10120101)+, Dry Fork Cheyenne (10120102)+, Upper Cheyenne (10120103)+, Lance (10120104)+, Lightning (10120105)+, Angostura Reservoir (10120106)+, Beaver (10120107)+, Hat (10120108)+, Upper Belle Fourche (10120201)+, Lower Belle Fourche (10120202)+, Redwater (10120203)+, Painted Woods-Square Butte (10130101)+, Cedar (10130205)+*, North Fork Grand (10130301)+*, South Fork Grand (10130302)+, South Fork Moreau (10130304)+*, Upper Moreau (10130305)+, Niobrara Headwaters (10150002)+, Upper Niobrara (10150003)+, Upper North Platte (10180002)+, Pathfinder-Seminoe Reservoirs (10180003)+, Medicine Bow (10180004)+, Little Medicine Bow (10180005)+, Sweetwater (10180006)+, Middle North Platte-Casper (10180007)+, Glendo Reservoir (10180008)+, Middle North Platte-Scotts Bluff (10180009)+, Upper Laramie (10180010)+, Lower Laramie (10180011)+, Horse (10180012)+, Pumpkin (10180013)+, Cache La Poudre (10190007)+, Lone Tree-Owl (10190008)+, Crow (10190009)+, Upper Lodgepole (10190015)+, Lower Lodgepole (10190016)+, Sidney Draw (10190017)+, North Fork Republican (10250002)+, South Fork Republican (10250003)+, Upper Sappa (10250010)+, South Fork Beaver (10250012)+, North Fork Smoky Hill (10260002)+
11 Upper Cimarron (11040002)+, Upper Cimarron-Liberal (11040006)+, Crooked (11040007)+
14 Upper Colorado-Kane Springs (14030005)+, Upper Green (14040101)+, New Fork (14040102)+, Upper Green-Slate (14040103)+, Big Sandy (14040104)+, Bitter (14040105)+, Upper Green-Flaming Gorge Reservoir (14040106)+, Blacks Fork (14040107)+, Muddy (14040108)+, Vermilion (14040109)+, Great Divide closed basin (14040200)+, Little Snake (14050003)+, Muddy (14050004)+, Ashley-Brush (14060002)+, Strawberry (14060004)+, Paria (14070007)+, Montezuma (14080203)+
15 Upper Virgin (15010008)+
16 Upper Bear (16010101)+, Central Bear (16010102)+, Upper Weber (16020101)+, Lower Weber (16020102)+, Provo (16020203)+*, Hamlin-Snake Valleys (16020301)+, Rush-Tooele Valleys (16020304)+, Northern Great Salt Lake Desert (16020308)+, Beaver Bottoms-Upper Beaver (16030007)+
17 Upper Kootenai (17010101)+, Upper Clark Fork (17010201)+, Flint-Rock (17010202)+, Blackfoot (17010203)+, Bitterroot (17010205)+, North Fork Flathead (17010206)+, Flathead Lake (17010208)+, Lower Flathead (17010212)+, Snake headwaters (17040101)+, Gros Ventre (17040102)+, Greys-Hobock (17040103)+, Palisades (17040104)+, Salt (17040105)+, Upper Henrys (17040202)+, Teton (17040204)+
18 Mono Lake (18090101)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: Small sparrow, slim with a long, notched tail; 12.5 cm in length. Brown crown with dark streaks, brown cheeks, and a white eye ring. Tan/brown back and rump, with dark streaks on rump, wings brown with wing bars. Undersides dull white with grayish flanks that are sometimes streaked. Juveniles are similar to the adults, but duller in color and streaked undersides.
Reproduction Comments: Breeding begins in mid-April in south to May or early June in north. Clutch size usually three to four. Nestlings are altricial. Reproductive success correlated with climatic variation and with clutch size; success increasing in wetter years (Rotenberry and Wiens 1989, 1991).
Ecology Comments: Can be abundant in sagebrush habitat and will breed in high densities (Great Basin and Pacific slopes), but densities may vary greatly from year to year (Rotenberry et al. 1999). In southeastern Oregon, reported density averaged 200 individuals per square kilometer, but ranged from 29 to 533 per square kilometer (Rotenberry and Wiens 1980; Wiens and Rotenberry 1981). Dobler et al. (1996) reported densities of 50 to 80 individuals per square kilometer in eastern Washington. In Great Basin, density usually ranged 150-300 per square kilometer, sometimes exceeding 500 per square kilometer (Rotenberry and Wiens 1989). Breeding density 0.08-0.10 individuals per hectare in shadscale habitat in eastern Nevada (Medin 1990). Breeding territory usually averages between 0.6-1.25 hectares and will contract as densities of breeding birds increase (Wiens et al. 1985). Mean territory sizes reported by Rotenberry et al. (1999) varied from 0.1 to 2.36 hectares.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: Winter from the Southwest through Baja and Central Mexico (Rotenberry et al. 1999); often in large, mixed flocks. Northernmost populations move farthest south; nonmigratory in some areas of the southwestern U.S. (Small 1974, Rotenberry et al. 1999).
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Desert, Shrubland/chaparral
Habitat Comments: BREEDING: Strongly associated with sagebrush over most of range, in areas with scattered shrubs and short grass. Can also be found to lesser extent in mountain mahogany, rabbit brush, bunchgrass grasslands with shrubs, bitterbrush, ceonothus, manzanita and large openings in pinyon-juniper (Knopf et al. 1990; Rising 1996; Sedgwick 1987; USDA Forest Service 1994). In Canada, subspecies TAVERNERI found in balsam-willow habitat and mountain meadows.

Average canopy height usually < 1.5 meter (Rotenberry et al. 1999). Positively correlated with shrub cover, above-average vegetation height, bare ground, and horizontal habitat heterogeneity (patchiness); negatively correlated with grass cover, spiny hopsage, and budsage (Larson and Bock 1984; Rotenberry and Wiens 1980; Wiens 1985; Wiens and Rotenberry 1981). Prefer areas dominated by shrubs rather than grass. Prefers sites with high shrub cover and large patch size, but thresholds for these values not quantified (Knick and Rotenberry 1995). In Montana, preferred sagebrush sites averaging 13 percent sagebrush cover (Bock and Bock 1987). In eastern Washington, abundance significantly increased on sites as sagebrush cover approached historic 10 percent level (Dobler et al. 1996). Strongly associated throughout range with high sagebrush vigor (Knopf et al. 1990).

Nests low in sagebrush (preferred), other shrub, or cactus, from a few centimeters to about 1 meter from ground. Also place nests higher in taller sagebrush (Rich 1980). In southeastern Idaho, nests placed between 20 and 50 centimeters above ground in most dense portion of shrub, and placement may increase in height with progression of season (Petersen and Best 1985). Reynolds (1981) reported average nest shrub height 65 centimeters; average nest height 25 centimeters; and average nest to crown distance 36 centimeters. Similar values reported by Rich (1980): 66 centimeter average shrub height; 28 centimeter average nest height; and 38 centimeter average height of cover above nest. In California, sometimes nests in vineyards. Most often perches in live sagebrush shrubs that are taller and denser than neighboring shrubs (Castrale 1983).

NON-BREEDING: In migration and winter uses low, arid vegetation, desert scrub, sagebrush, creosote bush (Rotenberry et al. 1999).

Adult Food Habits: Granivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Granivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: In spring and summer consumes many insects (e.g., alfalfa weevils, aphids, beet leafhoppers, caterpillars, beetles). In fall and winter feeds on seeds. Forages mainly on the ground. Drinks free water when available and will bathe in standing water; but adapted to arid environments and can physiologically adjust to water deprivation, obtaining water from foods (Dawson et al. 1979; Rotenberry et al. 1999).

May be food-limited in winter, as winter density is positively correlated with summer rainfall, and rainfall increases abundance of seeds available to wintering birds (Dunning and Brown 1982).

Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Phenology Comments: During nesting season many males may sing in chorus at dawn and twilight.
Length: 14 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Stewardship Overview: Although often the most abundant songbird in sagebrush habitats, is seriously declining across range. A species of concern due to population declines and threats to breeding habitat. Vulnerable to loss and fragmentation of sagebrush habitats. Can likely persist with moderate grazing and other land management activities that maintain sagebrush cover and the quality and integrity of native vegetation. Sagebrush habitats may be very difficult to restore where non-native grasses and other invasive species are pervasive, leading to an escalation of fire cycles that permanently convert sagebrush habitats to annual grassland.
Species Impacts: May be beneficial for insect pest control.
Restoration Potential: Still a common species throughout sagebrush habitats and there is a high probability of sustaining the species wherever native sagebrush habitats are maintained with high shrub vigor, horizontal shrub patchiness, and an open understory of native bunchgrasses and forbs. Sagebrush habitats, however, can be very difficult to restore once invaded by cheatgrass and other noxious non-native species, leading to an escalation of fire frequency and fire intensity that permanently converts shrub-steppe to annual grassland. There are no simple prescriptions for eliminating cheatgrass, medusahead, and other noxious weeds. Land reclamation of severely degraded sites to restore native habitat may be expensive and long-term, requiring weed control, control of disturbances, and repeated reseeding of sagebrush and native understory plants (see Paige and Ritter 1998).
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Optimum patch sizes and many other aspects of landscape ecology are unknown. Results of a habitat suitability model indicating that a minimum of 0.46 acres (0.2 ha) of suitable habitat and slope not greater than 30 degrees are needed for successful reproduction (Short 1984 cited in USFS 1994) reflect estimated minimum territory size and do not reflect landscape-level characteristics needed for a sustainable population (J.T. Rotenberry, pers. comm.).
Management Requirements: Thrives where extensive areas of sagebrush habitat are maintained, with shrubs occurring in tall, clumped, and vigorous stands. Prefers tall sagebrush shrubs for nesting and song perches; low percent grass cover to facilitate foraging on ground. Breeding adults have high site tenacity and return to previous breeding locations even after the habitat has been manipulated. Year to year variations in abundance and densities can lead to biased conclusions about habitat preferences and effects of management activities (Wiens et al. 1986).

SAGEBRUSH CONTROL: Sensitive to sagebrush control and decline in abundance with the loss of shrubs. Following sagebrush control by herbicides, population may decrease by > 50 percent (Best 1972; Schroeder and Sturges 1975; Kerley and Anderson 1995). Wiens and Rotenberry (1985) observed that due to breeding site fidelity, there can be a time lag in response to habitat changes. Will abandon site entirely as sagebrush dies out (Schroeder and Sturges 1975). A similar response can occur on burned plots (Castrale 1982). Decreases can be long-term: in Wyoming, 22 years after herbicidal spraying of sagebrush and nine years after burning, numbers were < 50 percent of abundances found in untreated sagebrush; shrub cover in untreated site was > 35 percent, in herbicide treatment 15 percent, in burned site < 10 percent (Kerley and Anderson 1995).

GRAZING: Population not likely affected where a grazing regime maintains native vegetation composition and densities; however, reported responses to grazing vary. In Nevada, negative response to heavy grazing observed in greasewood and low sage habitats; positive response to heavy grazing in shadscale, big sage, and Nevada bluegrass habitats (Page et al. 1978 cited in Saab et al. 1995). In Idaho, Reynolds and Trost (1980) reported no significant difference in number of nests found between ungrazed sagebrush sites and sagebrush grazed by sheep, but sample sizes low (n = 4 and 3 nests, respectively). Reynolds (1980 cited in Saab et al. 1995) reported a negative response to moderate grazing in big sage. In saltbush-midgrass habitat in Colorado, Ryder (1980) reported lower average number of breeding pairs in heavily grazed than lightly grazed plots, but did not test differences statistically.

GRASS COVER: Abundance is negatively correlated with grass cover (Rotenberry and Wiens 1980) and number of nests decline in crested wheatgrass plantings (Reynolds and Trost 1980). Continuous cover created by crested wheatgrass, cheatgrass or other non-native grasses may reduce foraging success (Paige and Ritter 1998).

FIRE: Fire that kills and removes sagebrush cover over large areas detrimental. Avoided burn area where a fire killed 100 percent of sagebrush in Montana and converted area into grassland and occupied unburned sites with high (13 percent) sagebrush cover (Bock and Bock 1987). In a prescribed burn in sagebrush in eastern Idaho that removed nearly 50 percent of the sagebrush habitat in a mosaic pattern, density dropped in first year after fire, then eventually increased again two years post-fire. Clutch size, daily nestling survival, and fledging success were not significantly different between burned and unburned plots (Petersen and Best 1987).

PESTICIDES: In southern Idaho shrub-steppe, aerial application of Malathion (applied at 585 grams per hectare ultra-low volume, in single-day applications in each of two successive years) reduced food base, but had no observable direct effects and only marginal indirect effects on nestling growth and survival (Howe et al. 1996).

Monitoring Requirements: Male sings frequently and conspicuously from the tops of shrubs; diurnal. Preferred habitats are generally in accessible terrain and should be adequately detected on point count, transect, spot map, or other standard census methods.
Management Research Needs: Closer study of the effects of grazing regimes greatly needed given the complex interactions of resulting changes to plant composition and densities, and change in fire cycles. More research needed on response to prescribed burn patterns. Understanding of minimum patch sizes, fragmentation effects, spatial juxtaposition of habitat patches and other aspects of landscape ecology needed. Study of extent of brood parasitism and impact of predation in relation to human alterations of habitat needed. Further study of direct and indirect impacts of herbicides and pesticides typically used in sagebrush shrub-steppe rangelands needed.
Biological Research Needs: Many details of biology and ecology are unknown. Further research needed on life history and ecology during migration and wintering.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Passerines

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Nest Site, Nesting Colony
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding, or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Mapping Guidance: Breeding occurrences include nesting areas as well as foraging areas.

For swallows and other species that have separate nesting and foraging areas, separations are based on nest sites or nesting areas, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap larger than the separation distance are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Mean foraging radius (from nesting area) of Brown-headed Cowbird females was 4.0 kilometers in California, 1.2 kilometers in Illinois-Missouri (Thompson 1994). Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Brewer's Blackbirds, and probably Red-winged Blackbirds all forage up to 1.6 kilometers away from breeding colony (Willson 1966, Horn 1968). In one study, Brewer's Blackbirds were found as far as 10 kilometers from nesting area (Williams 1952), but this may be unusual.

For swallows and other parrerines with similar behavioral ecology, separation distance pertains to nest sites or nesting colonies, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap of more than 5 km are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Migratory stopover
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: For most passerines: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating individuals (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 25 birds in appropriate habitat.

For swallows: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating flocks (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 100 birds in appropriate habitat (e.g., traditional roost sites).

Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 7 days annually.

EOs should not be described for species that are nomadic during nonbreeding season: e.g., Lark Bunting.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary but intended to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. Occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Any area used traditionally in the nonbreeding season (used for populations that are not resident in a location year-round). Minimally, reliable observations of 10 or more individuals in appropriate habitat for 20 or more days at a time. For G1-G3 species, observations of fewer individuals could constitute an occurrence of conservation value. Sites used during migration should be documented under the 'migratory stopover' location use class.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance is necessarily arbitrary but attempts to balance the high mobility of birds with the need for occurrences of reasonable spatial scope. Note that a population's roost sites and foraging areas are parts of the same occurrence, even if they are more than 5 km apart.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Nonmigratory
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a particular location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in or near appropriate habitat.

These occurrence specifications are used for nonmigratory populations of passerine birds.

Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and breeding-season foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Blue jays have small summer home ranges but fly up to 4 kilometers to harvest mast (Tarvin and Woolfenden 1999). Flocks of pinyon jays range over 21-29 square kilometers (Ligon 1971, Balda and Bateman 1971); nesting and foraging areas may be widely separated. Tricolored blackbirds forage in flocks that range widely to more than 15 kilometers from the nesting colony (Beedy and Hamilton 1999).

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Notes: These specs pertain to nonmigratory species.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 30Nov1999
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Paige, C.; REVISIONS BY M. KOENEN AND D.W. MEHLMAN
Management Information Edition Date: 20Jan1999
Management Information Edition Author: PAIGE, C; REVISIONS BY M. KOENEN, D. KWAN, AND D.W. MEHLMAN
Management Information Acknowledgments: Support for the preparation of this abstract was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Initiative, through challenge grant number 97-270 to The Nature Conservancy, Wings of the Americas program. Matching funds for this grant were donated by Canon U.S.A., Inc. Insightful comments on a draft of the abstract were provided by J.T. Rotenberry.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 14May1996
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): HAMMERSON, G., AND C. PAIGE

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

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