Land Bird Conservation Plan Colorado  

Executive Summary
Overview of Colorado
Physiographic Region 36
Physiographic Region 62

  • Alpine Tundra
  • Aspen
  • Cliff/Rock
  • High Elevation Riparian
  • Lowland Riparian
  • Mixed Conifer
  • Mountain Shrubland
  • Ponderosa Pine
  • Sagebrush Shrubland
  • Spruce Fir
  • Wetlands

  • Physiographic Region 87
    Implementation Strategies
    Literature Cited

    Physiographic Region 62: Southern Rocky Mountains

    Sage Sparrow (Amphispiza belli)

    Associated Species: Other species that may use habitat in a similar way and/or respond similarly to threats, management, and conservation activities include Sage Grouse, Sage Thrasher, and Brewer's Sparrow.

    Distribution: Sage Sparrows breed from western Wyoming west to central Washington, and as far south as north central New Mexico in the east and Baja California in the west; they are also found in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. In Colorado, Moffat County has the greatest concentration of Sage Sparrows, with Mesa, Montrose, and Montezuma counties having smaller concentrations. Sage Sparrows have a very limited distribution in Colorado in Physiographic Area 62, occurring only uncommonly in the mountain parks. Their elevational range is narrower than that of the other sagebrush obligate species and lies at the low to middle elevations of sagebrush. These sparrows winter in the Southwest, Baja California, and northern Mexico.

    Habitat Requirements: As its name suggests, this species breeds almost exclusively in sagebrush (especially big sagebrush), or sagebrush mixed with other shrubs. It prefers semi-open to dense stands of evenly-spaced to clumped, 0.5 to 2 m (1.5-6.5 ft) tall sagebrush (Knick and Rotenberry 1995). As ground feeders, they prefer only a modest amount of understory vegetation. Like the Brewer's Sparrow, this species requires large, contiguous sagebrush stands. Not all necessary habitat features have been identified, however, as this species is often absent from areas where the habitat otherwise appears suitable.

    Ecology: Most individuals of this species arrive in Colorado by April, initiate nesting by May, and fledge young during June and July. Most birds leave the state by mid October. Their diet consists primarily of insects and spiders, but they also eat some grass and forb seeds and small fruits.

    Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: Sage Sparrows prefer large patches of sagebrush, and may need patches of continuous habitat of at least 130 ha (320 ac); however, at least one study has shown that this species will accept the loss of up to 50% of the shrubs to wildfire or prescribed fire, provided the landscape pattern is a mosaic of burned and unburned areas (Petersen and Best 1987).

    Status and Reasons for Concern: This species is on the national Watch List, indicating a high conservation need throughout its range. Sage Sparrows are not adequately monitored by the BBS within Physiographic Area 62, and BBS data collected between 1969 and 1996 are too sparse to allow analysis of trend (n = 6 routes). This species is monitored by MCB with tracking transects.

    Biological Objective: Maintain or increase the species' distribution and abundance, based upon results of the BBS and MCB programs.

    Selected References: Andrews and Righter 1992, Kingery 1998, Martin and Carlson 1998.

    Copyright 2000 - Colorado Partners In Flight. All Rights Reserved. Webmaster - Scott Hutchings