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Rufous-winged Sparrow


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Uncommon and sparsely distributed, the Rufous-winged Sparrow resides in the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona and northern Mexico. It times its nesting attempts with the onset of the summer rains.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
5.1–5.5 in
13–14 cm
8.3 in
21 cm
0.5–0.6 oz
13–17 g
Other Names
  • Bruant à épaulettes, Pinson à épaulettes rousses (French)
  • Zacatonero ala rufa, Gorrión alirrojo (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • Rufous-winged Sparrow pairs remain on their territories year-round and stay bonded for life.
  • The Rufous-winged Sparrow was first described in 1872 from specimens taken in Arizona. From 1886 to 1915 it was not recorded in the state.
  • The Rufous-winged Sparrow may depend more on rainfall as a stimulus for nesting than any other North American bird. It typically nests after summer rains have begun, often building a nest and laying its first egg within five or six days after the first rain.
  • The oldest Rufous-winged Sparrow was a male, and at least 6 years old when he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Alaska.



Thorn scrub and arid grasslands.



Seeds and arthropods.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
2–5 eggs
Egg Description
Pale bluish or green, with no markings.
Condition at Hatching
Helpless with sparse dark down.
Nest Description

A solid, deep cup made of coarse grasses, placed in a fork in a branch of a low bush.

Nest Placement



Ground Forager

Pecks at ground and at bases of grass stems.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Rufous-winged Sparrow populations have declined, and in some areas been eliminated, due to habitat loss from grazing and development. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 200,000 with 14% living in the U.S., and 86% living in Mexico. The species rates a 15 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Rufous-winged Sparrow is a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species, and is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action.


Range Map Help

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