© Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren/Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.0)

Clay-colored Sparrow

Clay-colored Sparrow
Spizella pallida
Perching Birds | Family: New World Sparrows, Emberizidae

An estimated 52% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.



The plowing of the prairies reduced the habitat of the Clay-colored Sparrow, but with the clearing of forests it has extended its range northeastward and now breeds in the eastern Great Lakes region. Each spring and fall a few individuals, most of them immatures, appear on the Eastern Seaboard, where they can be difficult to distinguish from immature Chipping Sparrows, with which they often associate.


5-5 1/2" (13-14 cm). A small sparrow with streaked crown and buffy upperparts and clear gray breast; similar to an immature Chipping Sparrow but brighter, with rump brownish buff instead of lead gray, sides of neck gray, and buff cheek patch bordered above and below with black. Grasshopper Sparrow has buff underparts. See Brewer's Sparrow.


Series of 4 or 5 toneless, insect-like buzzes.


3-5 pale blue eggs, spotted with dark brown, in a bulky cup of hair-lined grass placed in a bush or clump of weeds up to 6' (2 m) above the ground.


Brushy grasslands and prairies.


Breeds from north-central Canada and Great Lakes region south to Colorado and Michigan. Winters north to southern Texas.