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Rufous-crowned Sparrow


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

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.


  • Song and calls
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Males sing in spring and summer from exposed perches or while in flight. They give two kinds of songs: one is a 1-2 second mix of slurs, chips, and chatters, with the bubbly quality of a House Wren song but much shorter. The other type of song is a simpler, fairly long trill.


Paired individuals give a chattering series of calls to each other to stay in contact and strengthen their pair bond during nest building. They also make a harsh series of alarm calls in response to danger or while mobbing predators such as rattlesnakes.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

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.



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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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