CLAY-COLORED SPARROW(Spizella pallida) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Clay-colored Sparrow has a light grey collar and under parts, and a light brown back with darker brown streaks. The head has a whitish crown lined by brown streaks followed by a light grey band above the eye, which is black. The long tail is notched. The bill is yellowish. The legs and feet are pinkish grey. Sexes are similar. It is a small songbird at approximately 15 cm (6 inches) long.
NAME: ‘Sparrow’ derives from Anglo-Saxon ‘Spearwa’, which means ‘flutterer’. The Latin genus name ‘Spizella’ means ‘little finch’, and the Latin species name ‘pallida’ means ‘pale’.
HABITAT: Shrublands, prairie.
DIET: Forages for insects and seeds on the ground.
NESTING: Nest is built in low shrubs. Three or four light green-blue eggs are laid, incubated by female. Chicks fed by both parents. Nest often parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbird.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeds in the Prairie and Great Plains of Canada and the USA. Migrates to Mexico for the winter.
ON PEI: Does not breed on Prince Edward Island, only accidental sightings have been reported so far (see note below on bird vagrancy).
CONSERVATION: Steady decline in numbers over last few decades. One factor might be development in breeding range. Globally not considered at risk, but in some areas species is of ‘special concern’.
NOTES: During migration can be found with flocks of other sparrows.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Chipping Sparrow (interbreeds with Clay-colored Sparrow), Field Sparrow
REFERENCES: (New York Natural Heritage Program)
Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (Clay-colored Sparrow)

Clay-Colored Sparrow - photo by Linda Tanner
Clay-Colored Sparrow, California – photo by Linda Tanner