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Harris's Sparrow

Zonotrichia querula ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: EMBERIZIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The striking Harris's Sparrow is rarely found far east or west of the middle of North America. It breeds along the edge of boreal forest and tundra in north-central Canada, and spends the winter in the very central region of the United States.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
6.7–7.9 in
17–20 cm
Wingspan
10.6 in
27 cm
Weight
0.9–1.7 oz
26–49 g
Other Names
  • Bruant à face noire (French)

Cool Facts

  • Because of its remote and restricted breeding grounds, the Harris's Sparrow was one of the last North American species to have its nest discovered. The first nest was found in 1931 at Churchill, Manitoba, by soon-to-be Cornellian George M. Sutton.
  • The Harris's Sparrow is the only bird species that breeds in Canada and nowhere else in the world.
  • In winter flocks, Harris's Sparrows maintain linear dominance hierarchies that determine access to food and roost sites. The most dominant birds are the oldest males, and they also have the largest bibs. If first winter birds have their feathers dyed black, creating an artificially large bib, they rise in the dominance hierarchy.

Habitat


Forest

Breeds at edge of boreal forest and tundra. Winters along hedgerows, shelterbelts, agricultural fields, weed patches, and pastures.

Food


Seeds

Seeds, fruits, arthropods, and young conifer needles.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
3–5 eggs
Egg Description
Pale green with irregular spots and blotches.
Condition at Hatching
Helpless with sparse gray down.
Nest Description

Nest an open cup of mosses, small twigs, and lichens, lined with dried grass and often some caribou hair. Placed on ground, sunken into moss and lichens.

Nest Placement

Ground

Behavior


Ground Forager

Feeds primarily on ground. Picks food from ground, and scratches some in litter with both feet. Comes to feeders.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Because of remote nesting area and preference for disturbed areas on wintering grounds, the Harris's Sparrow is unlikely to be negatively affected by human activities. Christmas Bird Count numbers appear stable.

Credits

  • Norment, C. J., and S. A. Shackleton. 1993. Harris's Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula). In The Birds of North America, No. 64 (A. Poole, and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

Range Map Help

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