Living Bird Magazine
Rufous-crowned SparrowAimophila ruficeps
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Passerellidae
The hot, rocky hillsides of the Southwest can look inhospitable on a baking summer day, but they’re exactly the kind of place Rufous-crowned Sparrows call home. These bulky, long-tailed sparrows forage on the ground beneath sparse shrubs and grasses. These are attractive sparrows with reddish toned upperparts and neat gray underparts, accentuated by a white eyering and a white malar or whisker stripe on the face. Males sing a short, jumbled song with a bubbly quality that recalls a House Wren.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Rufous-crowned Sparrows are habitat specialists, so the first step in finding them is to find a dry, rocky hillside with shrub cover that is not too dense. These birds tend to stay hidden and close to the ground except when singing, so you’ll have best results if you try during spring or early summer when males will be singing in the early morning from exposed perches. At other times of year you’ll need to be patient and keep a distance as you wait for foraging sparrows to move into open spaces between shrubs or patches of grass.
- Chingolo Coronirrufo (Spanish)
- Tohi à calotte fauve (French)
- Cool Facts
- Rufous-crowned Sparrows are fairly sedentary birds that don’t migrate and spend much of their time walking or running on the ground between shrubs and grasses. They are not strong fliers, and the farthest distance they’ve ever been recorded flying at one go is about 540 feet.
- Despite being capable of flight, Rufous-crowned Sparrows tend to stay on or near the ground where they get both shade and cover from predators. They usually build their nests on the ground as well, sometimes hiding them underneath the overhanging edge of a rock or woody stem.
- The oldest known Rufous-crowned Sparrow was a male, and at least 5 years, 1 month old when it was recaptured and rereleased at a banding station in New Mexico in 2009.