Uses its long bill to clear away leaves and other debris and uncover insects. Also digs or scrapes pits in the ground in search of prey or picks prey from low vegetation. Males perch high to sing only in breeding season (winter), otherwise this species is essentially terrestrial.
Lives year-round in very dry, lightly vegetated desert habitat with cholla, saltbush, mesquite, and other plants tolerant of hot, arid conditions.
Ornithologists recognize three subspecies, which differ slightly in size and plumage tone: lecontei in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts, macmillanorum in the San Joaquin Valley of California, and arenicola in the Vizcaíno Desert of Baja California, Mexico.