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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Clay-colored Sparrow -- Spizella pallida

RANGE: Breeds from eastern British Columbia and west-central and southern Mackenzie east to central Ontario, and south to eastern Washington, central Montana, eastern Colorado, northern Iowa, central and southeastern Michigan, and southwestern Quebec. Winters from central Texas to southern Mexico.

STATUS: Locally common.

HABITAT: Prefers mid-western mixed-grass prairies with scattered low thickets of shrubs such as wolfberry; will inhabit a variety of dry, uncultivated shrubby habitats, including grasslands with taller shrubs or small trees, brushy hillsides, overgrown clearings and pastures, parklands, brushy woodland edges, burned-over areas, weedy thickets along roads, swamps, fencerows, railroad tracks and fields, shelterbelts, and other early successional disturbed habitats.


NEST: Builds nest either on the ground, well hidden in a tuft of grass at the base of a shrub or near a clump of weeds, or up to 4 1/2 feet above ground in a low shrub or small tree. Commonly uses snowberry, rosebushes, serviceberry, and conifers for nesting.

FOOD: Feeds primarily on a wide variety of weed and grass seeds, but will also eat insects in spring and summer, and willow catkins and the buds of elms and other trees in spring.

REFERENCES: Forbush and May 1955, Fox 1961, Hussong 1946, Johnsgard 1979, Knapton 1978, Root in Bent 1968b, Salt 1966.

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