The Sage Sparrow (Amphispiza belli) is a medium-sized sparrow of the western United States and northwestern Mexico.
Sage Sparrows are indeed often tied to sagebrush habitats, although they can also be found in brushy stands of saltbush, chamise, and other low shrubs of the arid Interior West.
The most widespread population (subspecies nevadensis) breeds in the interior of the Western United States (between the Rocky Mountains and the coastal ranges such as the Cascades). It winters in the Mexican-border states and northern Sonora and Chihuahua. A related population (subspecies canescens) breeds in south-central California. Three other populations are resident to the west: the dark subspecies belli in the California Coast Ranges and part of the western slope of the Sierra Nevada south to about 29° N in Baja California, the equally dark subspecies clementeae limited to San Clemente Island, and subspecies cinerea in western Baja California from 29° N to 26° 45′ 0 N. These three subspecies are sometimes called Bell’s Sparrow. Some consider them a separate species.
Although Sage Sparrow numbers are generally strong, significant declines in sagebrush habitat in the West could be expected to decrease populations in the near future. A. b. clementeae has been listed as Threatened since 1977.
The species’ epithet (belli) refers to John Graham Bell.
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