Name: Amphispiza belli
Authority: (Cassin, 1850)
English Common Name: Sage Sparrow
Spanish Common Name(s): Zacatonero de Artemisa
Portuguese Common Name(s): None Known
Taxonomic Comments: Composed of two groups which may represent distinct species: NEVADENSIS (Sage Sparrow) and BELLI (Bell's Sparrow) (AOU 1998). Johnson and Marten (1992) documented morphological, genetic, and ecological differences among subspecies CANESCENS, BELLI, and NEVADENSIS. They found that CANESCENS averages larger than BELLI in several morphometric characters and that CANESCENS and BELLI, though genetically closely related, are 100% separable on the basis of plumage coloration alone. Previously published reports of intergradation were shown to be incorrect. Also, post-nesting CANESCENS move into the active breeding range of BELLI but the two forms do not interbreed. All data indicated that CANESCENS and BELLI are reproductively isolated. Johnson and Marten noted that further study is needed before the absence of interbreeding can be regarded as firmly established. Johnson and Marten (1992) determined that subspecies CANESCENS and NEVADENSIS are strongly differentiated both morphologically and genetically; they found no evidence of intergradation and noted that Johnson was studying the possible biological species status of the two forms.
Global Conservation Status
IUCN Red List Category:
LC - Least concern
CITES Status: None
BREEDING: Found from sea level to 2000 meters (Rising 1996); strongly associated with sagebrush for breeding. Also found in salt-bush brushland, shadscale, antelope brush, rabbitbrush, black greasewood (Colorado), mesquite, and chaparral (California; AOU 1998; Green and Smith 1981; Martin and Carlson 1998; Paige and Ritter 1998; Reynolds 1981). Prefers semi-open habitats, shrubs 1-2 meters tall (Martin and Carlson 1998). Habitat structure (vertical structure, shrub density, and habitat patchiness) is important to habitat selection (Martin and Carlson 1998). Positively correlated with big sagebrush (ARTEMISIA TRIDENTATA), shrub cover, bare ground, above-average shrub height, and horizontal patchiness; negatively correlated with grass cover (Rotenberry and Wiens 1980; Wiens and Rotenberry 1981; Larson and Bock 1984).
In northern Great Basin, associated with low and tall sagebrush/bunchgrass, juniper/sagebrush, mountain mahogany/shrub, and aspen/sagebrush/bunchgrass communities for breeding and foraging (Maser et al. 1984). In Idaho, found in sagebrush of 11 to 14 percent cover (Rich 1980). Martin and Carlson (1998) report preference for evenly spaced shrubs; other authors (Rotenberry and Wiens 1980; Peterson and Best 1985) report association where sagebrush is clumped or patchy.
Subspecies BELLI: chaparral dominated by chamise and/or California sagebrush (Johnson and Marten 1992). Subspecies CANESCENS: breeds in desert scrub where ATRIPLEX is prevalent (Johnson and Marten 1992). Subspecies NEVADENSIS: breeds in brushland dominated by big sagebrush or sagebrush-saltbush (Johnson and Marten 1992). Subspecies CLEMENTEAE: nests in boxthorn shrubs interspersed by cactus (Willey 1997).
Nests on the ground or in a shrub, up to about one meter above ground (Terres 1980). In the Great Basin, usually nests in living sagebrush where cover is sparse but shrubs are clumped; avoids southwestern side of plant (Petersen and Best 1985). Placement may be related to density of vegetative cover over the nest, as will nest higher in a taller shrub (Rich 1980).
NON-BREEDING: In migration and winter also in arid plains with sparse bushes, grasslands and open situations with scattered brush, mesquite, and riparian scrub; preferring to feed near woody cover (Martin and Carlson 1998; Meents et al. 1982; Repasky and Schluter 1994). Flocks in Mojave Desert appear to follow water courses (Eichinger and Moriarty 1985). Wintering birds in honey mesquite of lower Colorado River select areas of higher inkweed (SUAEDA TORREYANA) density (Meents et al. 1982).
Distribution Status in Latin America
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- Fish and Wildlife Service. 1980. Selected vertebrate endangered species of the seacoast of the United States- San Clemente sage sparrow. FWS/OBS-80/01.55, Slidell.
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- Peterjohn, B. G., J. R. Sauer, and W. A. Link. 1994. The 1992 and 1993 summary of the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Bird Populations 2:46-61.
- Petersen, K. L., and L. B. Best. 1985. Nest-site selectionby sage sparrows. Condor 87:217-221.
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- Poole, A. F. and F. B. Gill. 1992--. The birds of North America. The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. and The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA.
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- Reynolds, T.D. 1979. The impact of loggerhead shrikes on nesting birds in a sagebrush environment. Auk 96:798-800.
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- Reynolds, T.D., and C.H. Trost. 1980. The response of native vertebrate populations to crested wheatgrass planting and grazing by sheep. Journal of Range Management 33:122-125.
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- Rotenberry, J. T., and J. A. Wiens. 1989. Reproductive biology of shrubsteppe passerine birds: geographical and temporal variation in clutch size, brood size, and fledging success. Condor 91:1-14.
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- Rotenberry, J.T., and J.A. Wiens. 1980. Habitat structure, patchiness, and avian communities in North American steppe vegetation: a multivariate analysis. Ecology 61:1228-1250.
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