Harris's Sparrow

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Common Name: Harris’s Sparrow
Scientific Name: Zonotrichia querula

Size: 6.7-7.9 inches (17-20 cm)

Habitat: North America; It breeds along the edge of boreal forest and tundra in north-central Canada, and spends the winter in the very central region of the United States. It is rarely found in the far east or in the west of North America.

It breeds at edge of boreal forest and tundra and winters along hedgerows, shelterbelts, agricultural fields, weed patches, and pastures.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: Unknown amount of mature individuals. Because of remote nesting area and preference for disturbed areas on wintering grounds, the Harris's Sparrow is unlikely to be negatively affected by human activities. Canada’s plans to tar sands extraction may change this. Populations appear to be stable.

Diet: Seeds, fruits, arthropods, and young conifer needles. Harris’s Sparrows primarily feed on ground by scratching leaf litter with both feet. It will come to feeders.

Nesting: Sexes are alike. Breeding plumage birds have conspicuous pink bills and black on the crown, face, throat and upper breast, contrasting with grey on the sides of the head and neck. The back is brown, overlaid with heavy black streaking. There are two white wing bars. Breeding birds have white lower under parts with some black mottling on flanks. Non-breeding adults are more buff than gray and brown, with reduced or absent black markings and often have whitish scalloping on the head and throat. Immatures have less black than all adult plumages, normally marked with a white chin and throat, a black malar stripe and a broad smudgy black breast-band. Juvenile have a brownish crown streaked with black and fine dark streaks and some broader black markings on the underside. Birds molt from July to September.

In winter flocks, Harris's Sparrows maintain linear dominance hierarchies that determine access to food and roost sites. The most dominant birds are the oldest males, and they also have the largest bibs. If first winter birds have their feathers dyed black, creating an artificially large bib, they rise in the dominance hierarchy.

The nest is an open cup of mosses, small twigs, and lichens, lined with dried grass and often some caribou hair. It is placed on ground, sunken into moss and lichens. 3 to 5 eggs are laid. The eggs are pale green with irregular spots and blotches.

Cool Facts: Because of its remote and restricted breeding grounds, the Harris's Sparrow was one of the last North American species to have its nest discovered. The first nest was found in 1931 at Churchill, Manitoba, by George M. Sutton.

The Harris's Sparrow is the only bird species that breeds in Canada and nowhere else in the world.

Found in Songbird Remix Sparrows of the World

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