CLAY-COLORED SPARROW(Spizella pallida)

The Clay-colored sparrow is a small songbird at approximately 15 cm (6 in.) long, and almost half of that length is for the notched tail. The bird has a light grey collar and under parts, and a light brown back with darker brown streaks. The head is distinctive, with a whitish crown lined by brown streaks followed by a light grey band above the eye. The bill is yellowish.

NAME: The English name ‘Sparrow’ derives from Anglo-Saxon ‘Spearwa’, which means ‘flutterer’, and it has been applied to many small birds (Choate). The name ‘clay-colored’ is a bit tricky as there are several colors for clay. One just has to look at the color of the clay in PEI, which is red! The Latin word ‘pallida’ means ‘pale’.

The habitat of this species is located in mid-Canada and the USA, in the prairie and Great Plains. The majority breeds in Canada, and the nest is built in low shrubs. This sparrow forages for insects and seeds on the ground. The bird migrates to Mexico for the winter, and during migration it can be found with flocks of other sparrows.

The clay-colored sparrow does not breed on PEI, and only accidental sightings have been reported so far, such as one at East Point on October 2, 2002. The photo below is from Linda Tanner, California.

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