Living Bird Magazine
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The Bell’s Sparrow is a neat, gray-headed sparrow emblematic of California’s coastal sage and chaparral. They also occur in Baja California, the Mojave Desert, and on San Clemente Island, California (a federally threatened subspecies). Like the very similar Sagebrush Sparrow, these birds spend much of their time foraging for insects and seeds on the ground underneath shrubs. In spring males sing a fast mix of trills and chips from the tallest perches they can find.More ID Info
As with many inconspicuous sparrows, the best way to find Bell’s Sparrows is to look for them in the early morning during the breeding season, when males perch out in the open on tall shrubs and sing for your attention. At other times they may be considerably harder to find. Just be aware that in the right habitat—particularly in coastal sagebrush in southern California—these sparrows are fairly numerous. They tend to forage on the ground and scurry rather than fly between patches of shrub cover. Patient watching and listening either for the sounds of foraging or for this bird’s bell-like tink call will help you find them.