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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Cassin's Sparrow -- Aimophila cassinii

RANGE: Breeds from southeastern Arizona, New Mexico, central and northeastern Colorado, southwestern Nebraska, and Kansas south into Mexico and Texas. Singing males may appear sporadically from southern California to South Dakota. Winters from southeastern Arizona and western and south-central Texas into Mexico.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Prefers open grassland and short-grass plains with a few scattered shrubs or small trees. Also frequents mesquite grasslands if the mesquites are small with open areas throughout but will not usually inhabit areas that are entirely grass unless surrounded by a fence for perching. Occasionally occurs in or near mountainous areas, on grassy slopes with scattered yuccas or small oaks. Favors sandy prairies with scattered sage, yucca, cactus, mesquite, and shinnery oaks in Oklahoma. Apparently can breed where no drinking water is available locally.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Short-grass plains with scattered shrubs.

NEST: May nest either on the ground, or up to 12 inches above the ground in low bushes or among tangled branches of cacti. Typically places ground nests at the foot of small shrubby plants, concealed in weeds or placed in a tuft of grass.

FOOD: Eats mainly insects taken from the ground or the grass. In the winter, eats small seeds of weeds and grasses.

REFERENCES: Johnsgard 1979, Williams and LeSassier in Bent 1968b.

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