Sunday 19 May
Worthen’s sparrow (Spizella wortheni)
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Worthen’s sparrow fact file
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Worthen’s sparrow description
This little-known bird, endemic to Mexico (3), has a dull brown plumage with a distinctive head pattern. The head is steely-grey with a rufous crown and brownish markings behind and below the eye (2). Upperparts are otherwise sandy grey-brown streaked with dark brown, while underparts are buff, and the bill is pink (2).
- Size: 12.5 – 14 cm (2)
Worthen’s sparrow biology
While nesting Worthen’s sparrows appear to be rather thinly dispersed, birds in the non-breeding season have been observed congregating into single-species flocks of up to 70 individuals, occasionally in the company of other bird species (4).Top
Worthen’s sparrow range
Once extending across Mexico north into the U.S., Worthen’s sparrow has suffered a major decline and recent breeding records only exist from north-east Mexico at Tanque de Emergencia in Coahuila (100-120 individuals found in January 1998) and Las Esperanzas in Nuevo León (2).Top
Worthen’s sparrow habitat
Confined to open, arid shrub-grassland between 1,200 and 2,450 m above sea level (2).Top
Worthen’s sparrow status
Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1).Top
Worthen’s sparrow threats
Worthen’s sparrow is dangerously close to extinction, with just 100 to 120 individuals estimated to survive today. The species’ range has greatly retracted due to habitat loss, with open shrub-grassland having been widely destroyed by agriculture and grazing, and it seems unlikely that large tracts of habitat remain near the two currently known sites (2).Top
Worthen’s sparrow conservation
The north side of the valley at Tanque de Emergencia is managed using a rotational grazing regime that ensures that the grass always remains high in several pastures, preserving suitable habitat for Worthen’s sparrow. It would greatly benefit this rare bird if such regimes were implemented elsewhere within its range (2).Top
Find out more
For more information on Worthen’s sparrow see:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
IUCN Red List (September, 2006)
BirdLife International (October, 2006)
Greg Lasley Nature Photography (October, 2006)
Behrstock, R.A., Sexton, C.W., Lasley, G.W., Eubanks, T.L. and Gee, J.P. (1997) First nesting records of Worthen's Sparrow Spizella wortheni for Nuevo León, Mexico, with a habitat characterisation of the nest site and notes on ecology, voice, additional recent sightings and leg coloration. Cotinga (Journal of the Neotropical Bird Club), 8: 27 - 33. Available at:
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