E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Artemisiospiza nevadensis (Ridgway, 1874)
Sagebrush Sparrow
Family: Emberizidae

© Tom Munson  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #10386)

E-Fauna BC Static Map
Distribution of Artemisiospiza nevadensis in British Columbia
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Species Information


Status and Occurrence of the Sagebrush Sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis) in British Columbia
Read the full article with photos/figures here.

By Rick Toochin

Introduction and Distribution

The Sagebrush Sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis) is a western North American species found breeding in dry deserts from southern Washington, eastern Oregon, southern Idaho, southern Wyoming and northwestern Colorado south to southern California to central Baja California, as well as southern Nevada, southern Utah and northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico (Byers et al. 1995, Beadle and Rising 2002). The northern birds migrate south to spend the winter in dry zones to desert regions from southern Oregon through California with birds wintering in Nevada, to northern Utah, southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, west Texas, eastern parts of the northern Baja Peninsula and western areas of Northern Mexico (Byers et al. 1995, Beadle and Rising 2002, Wahl et al. 2005). The Sagebrush Sparrow is a rare winter bird from southwest Kansas through western Oklahoma and southern Colorado (Byers et al. 1995, Beadle and Rising 2002). There is another distinct sister species that is very similar looking to the Sagebrush Sparrow that was separated in 2013 by the AOU into a new North American Sparrow species (Retter 2013). This unique species is now called Bell’s Sparrow (Artemisiospiza belli). The Bell’s Sparrow is a non-migratory species that is found along the California coast south through coastal regions of the Baja Peninsula in Chaparral habitat (Byers et al. 1995, Beadle and Rising 2002). The Sagebrush Sparrow is a casual species in British Columbia with 15 records mostly from the spring (Campbell et al. 2001, Toochin et al. 2013b, Please see Table 1). In the rest of Canada, the Sagebrush Sparrow is an accidental species, with one late fall record from Brier Island in Nova Scotia (Forsythe 1995).

Occurrence and Documentation

In British Columbia, there have been 15 records of Sagebrush Sparrow for the Province (Cannings et al. 1987, Campbell et al. 2001, Toochin and Fenneman 2008, Please see Table 1). There are no records of Bell’s Sparrow for Canada or British Columbia (Cannings et al. 1987, Campbell et al. 2001). Records fall into two main periods between early March and mid to late April (Cannings et al. 1987, Campbell et al. 2001, Toochin and Fenneman 2008, Please see Table 1). The March records are likely more southerly overshoots as Sagebrush Sparrow are early migrants in late February through mid March in Oregon (Littlefield 1990). In Washington State, the Sagebrush Sparrow is also an early migrant with birds arriving in mid March through mid April (Wahl et al. 2005). This might explain why, in British Columbia, there are two distinct period when records occur. If the source of Provincial records are two different populations with two different periods of migration, then this might explain why records mostly fall into early to mid March and mid to late April as birds are likely coming from both the Oregon and Washington populations. There is a single early May record and a mid June record and this likely reflects the fact that Sagebrush Sparrows do not seem to stay in the Okanagan or dry belt through the summer months (Cannings et al. 1987). Sagebrush Sparrows prefer large expanses of big Sagebrush which has long disappeared in the southern Okanagan due to agricultural practices (Cannings et al. 1987, Campbell et al. 2001). Breeding Bird Survey data in Washington shows between 1966 to 2000 indicate a sharp decline likely due to increased agriculture in the region (Sauer et al. 2001, Wahl et al. 2005). There are areas of that have large tracts of Sagebrush in the Ashcroft and Cache Creek region of British Columbia that are not regularly checked by obervers but it seems highly unlikely that Sagebrush Sparrows are breeding in British Columbia and that their occurrence is from overshoot migrants (Cannings et al. 1987, Campbell et al. 2001). In Washington and Oregon, birds move south in the month of September into October (Littlefield 1990, Wahl et al. 2005). There are only two fall records for the Province with the first being a female collected on Lulu Island in Richmond on October 2, 1930 and the other being of an adult seen on September 24, 1981 at White Lake in the south Okanagan (Cumming 1932, Munro and Cowan 1947, Godfrey 1986, Cannings et al. 1987, Campbell et al. 2001). In 2013, there have been two records of Sagebrush Sparrow which fall into the spring overshoot period (Please see Table 1). Both birds were seen during unseasonally warm weather and fall perfectly into the two overshoot periods of March and April. With more extensive coverage by observers, it is likely records of this species will continue to be found in southern British Columbia in the future. The only other record for Canada was a bird photographed at a famous migrant vagrant trap location on Brier Island in Nova Scotia on November 13, 1994 (Forsythe 1995).

Read the full article with photos/figures here

Table 1: British Columbia records of Sagebrush Sparrow:

1.(1) immature October 2, 1930: R.A. Cumming (specimen: BCPM 6913) Lulu Island, Richmond (Cumming 1932, Munro and Cowan 1947, Godfrey 1966, Campbell et al. 2001, Toochin 2013a)
2.(1) adult singing May 3, 1970: K. Gruener : Sagebrush along Ritcher Pass Summit, South Okanagan (Cannings et al. 1987, Toochin et al. 2013b)
3.(1) adult March 20-22, 1974: fide Jamie Fenneman Comox flats, Comox (J. Fenneman Pers. Comm.)( Toochin et al. 2013b)
4.(1) adult June 11, 1980: R. & J. Satterfield: White Lake, Okanagan (Cannings et al. 1987, Campbell et al. 2001, Toochin et al. 2013b)
5.(1) adult September 24, 1981: Al & Jude Grass: White Lake, Okanagan (Cannings et al. 1987, Campbell et al. 2001, Toochin et al. 2013b)
6.(1) adult April 27, 1982: D. J. Wilson, KRS: Katzie Marsh, Pitt Meadows (Mattock and Hunn 1982, Weber 1985, Campbell et al. 2001, Toochin 2013a)
7.(1) adult March 2, 1996: Chris Siddle: Grey Canal Road, Vernon (Bowling 1996, Davidson 1999, Campbell et al. 2001, Toochin et al. 2013b).
8.(1) adult February 16-19, 1998: R. Barns, and other observers (BC Photo 1783) Dallas Road along waterfront, Victoria (Bowling 1998, Campbell et al. 2001, Toochin et al. 2013b).
9.(1) adult April 5-6, 2000: Peter Sandiford, Rick Toochin, and other observers (photo) Iona Island North Arm Jetty Base, Richmond (Toochin 2013a)
10.(1) adult March 14, 2007: Tom Plath: Iona Island North Arm Jetty Base, Richmond (Cecile 2007, Toochin 2013a)
11.(1) adult April 27, 2009: Les Lee: White Lake (e-bird Canada database: Accessed May 3, 2013)
12.(1) adult April 16, 2010: Doug Brown: Nighthawk, South Okanagan (Yahoo message #23220 bcintbird)
13.(1) adult April 12, 2012: Avery Bartels (photo) Kelowna (BC Bird Alert Blog: Accessed April 18, 2012)
14.(1) adult March 3, 2013: Corina Isaac, Rick Toochin: (BC Bird Alert Blog: Accessed March 3, 2013)
15.(1) adult April 27, 2013: Doug Brown: south end of Blue Lake, South Okanagan (BC Bird Alert Blog: Accessed April 27, 2013)

Hypothetical records:

1.(1) adult June 11, 1922: C. de B. Green: Sagebrush near Keremeos (Cannings et al. 1987, Toochin et al. 2013b)
2.(1-2) reported by S.J. Darcus in the Okanagan in the summers of 1933 and 1934 (Parham 1937, Cannings et al. 1987)
3.(1) adult March 13, 2005: fide David Allinson: Chatterton Hill, Victoria (Toochin et al. 2013b)
4.(3) adult April 7, 2010: Karl Ricker: Nicklaus North Golf Course, Whistler (R. Cannings Pers. Comm.)

Read the full article with photos/figures here

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
COSEWIC
NativeSNAAccidentalNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Amphispiza belli
Artemisiospiza belli

Additional Range and Status Information Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References


Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2019. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 23/09/2019 12:50:13 PM]
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