Clay-colored Sparrow

(Spizella pallida)

Conservation Status
Clay-colored Sparrow
Photo by Laurie Wachholz
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N4N5B, N4N - Apparently Secure to Secure Breeding, Apparently Secure Nonbreeding

SNRB - Unranked Breeding


not listed






5 to 6 in length

7½ wingspan




The male song is a series of 2 to 5, usually 2 or 3, insect-like buzzes.


Similar Species


Shrubby areas, thickets, woodland edges, prairie edges, and areas regenerating from fire




Mid April to mid-October. In the fall they fly south in small groups to south Texas and Mexico.








Forages for seeds, plant buds, and insects on the ground and on low vegetation.




Common migrant and breeder




The Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union All Seasons Species Occurrence Map

  Class Aves (birds)  


Passeriformes (perching birds)  


Passerellidae (New World sparrows)  


Spizella (chipping sparrows)  

New World sparrows were traditionally combined with buntings into the family Emberizidae. Recent phylogenetic analysis (Barker et al. 2013) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis (Klicka et al. 2014) found that the Old World buntings should be separated as a sister to New World sparrows. New World sparrows have been separated into a new family, Passerellidae.















Visitor Photos

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Laurie Wachholz

    Clay-colored Sparrow      






Clay-colored Sparrow
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
  Clay-colored Sparrow  
Clay-colored Sparrow
JMC Nature Photos
  Clay-colored Sparrow  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Clay-Colored Sparrow preening and singing

Uploaded on Jul 1, 2009

A male clay-colored sparrow preens himself and sings. See more pictures at

  Clay-colored Sparrow Portrait
eBirdr Channel

Published on Jun 3, 2012

The Clay-colored Sparrow was once fairly common in north central United States and western and central Canada. Now due to intensive agricultural practices it is on the decline. It is found in brushy open areas, prairies, streamside thickets.

It has brown streaked upperparts with clear whitish underparts. The head shows a central pale crown stripe and a broad light eyebrow stripe. Also note the brown cheek patch and gray collar and brown rump. Similar winter Chipping Sparrow has a contrasting gray rump. Brewer's Sparrow has no central crown stripe.

The distinctive song is unbird-llike with identical slow low-pitched buzzes.

  Clay-colored Sparrow (Emberizidae: Spizella pallida) Female Preening
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on Jul 6, 2009

Photographed at East Grand Forks, Minnesota (05 July 2009)

  Clay-colored Sparrow singing
Stoil Ivanov

Published on Jun 1, 2013

Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida) video taken on 5-30-2013 in Lakewood Forest Preserve Wauconda Illinois

  Clay-colored sparrows

Published on Jun 18, 2015

Recorded at The South Padre Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary on 2015-04-20

Spizella pallida,

Gorrión Pálido, chimbito pálido, gorrión indefinido rayado, gorrión pálido y arrocero pálido (Spanish)

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Visitor Sightings

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Anna Gronseth Prairie

Avon Hills Forest SNA, North Unit

Big Woods Heritage Forest WMA

Blaine Preserve SNA

Blazing Star Prairie

Bunker Hills Regional Park

Cambria WMA

Camden State Park

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Carver Park Reserve

Cedar Mountain SNA

Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA

Chippewa Prairie

Clear Lake SNA

Cleary Lake Regional Park

Cold Spring Heron Colony SNA

Cottonwood River Prairie SNA

Des Moines River SNA

Dry Sand WMA

Edward Velishek Memorial WMA

Felton Prairie SNA, Bicentennial Unit

Flandrau State Park

Fort Ridgely State Park

Foxhome Prairie

Frenchman’s Bluff SNA

Frontenac State Park

Hastings Sand Coulee SNA

Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie

Holthe Prairie SNA

Jensen Memorial WMA

John Murtaugh Memorial WMA

John Peter Hoffman Spring Brook Valley WMA

Joseph A. Tauer Prairie SNA

Kettledrummer Prairie

Lake Byllesby Regional Park

Lake Louise State Park

Lost Valley Prairie SNA

Maplewood State Park

Miller Prairie, West Unit

Minneopa State Park

Mississippi River County Park

Mound Spring Prairie SNA, North Unit

North Mississippi Regional Park

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Pavia Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Rengstorf Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Touch the Sky Prairie Unit

Otter Tail Prairie SNA

Plover Prairie, East Unit

Prairie Creek WMA, Koester Prairie Unit

Regal Meadow

Ripley Esker SNA

River Terrace Prairie SNA

Rock Ridge Prairie SNA

Rockville County Park

Roscoe Prairie SNA

St. Croix Savanna SNA

Sand Prairie Wildlife Management and Environmental Education Area

Sandpiper Prairie SNA

Santee Prairie SNA

Savage Fen SNA

Sedan Brook SNA

Seven Sisters Prairie

Seven Springs WMA

Spring Creek Prairie SNA

Staffanson Prairie

Sunfish Lake Park

Swedes Forest SNA

Tiedemann WMA

Tribute WMA

Twin Valley Prairie SNA

Vermillion Highlands Research Recreation and WMA

Vermillion River WMA

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Woodbury WMA

Woodland Trails Park





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