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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

Field Sparrow -- Spizella pusilla

RANGE: Breeds from northwestern and southeastern Montana and northern North Dakota to southwestern Quebec and southern New Brunswick south to western Kansas, southern Texas, the Gulf Coast, and southern Georgia. Winters from Kansas to Massachusetts, and south to Mexico, the Gulf Coast, and southern Florida.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Occurs in a variety of habitats that provide low grassy areas and shrubs or low trees, including old fields and pastures overgrown with briar thickets or deciduous underbrush, brushy fencerows, cut over pine forests and burned-over woodlands wherever briars and brush have regenerated, edges of open, unplowed fields, sagebrush flats, forest edges, and other similar habitats.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Abandoned fields or other open areas with low shrubs or trees.

NEST: Early in the nesting season, usually builds nest on or near the ground in weed clumps or tufts of grass; later in nesting season, builds nest as high as 4 feet above the ground in shrubs or small trees. Locates nest in a wide range of plant species - grapevines, cinquefoil, blackberry bushes, boxelders, small oaks, and hickories.

FOOD: Gleans a variety of seeds of weeds and grasses from the ground throughout the year; in summer, also eats insects (40 percent of diet.)

REFERENCES: Best 1977, 1978, DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Fretwell 1968, Johnsgard 1979, Vickery in Farrand 1983c, Walkinshaw in Bent 1968b.

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