Black-throated SparrowAmphispiza bilineata

Glenn Bartley/VIREO
Adrian & Jane Binns/VIREO
Bob Steele/VIREO
Black-throated Sparrow


5 1/4" (13 cm). Gray above, white below, with striking black throat and breast; two conspicuous white stripes on sides of head, one above and one below the eye. Sexes alike.


Two clear notes followed by a buzzy trill.


two males countersinging
songs #1
chip calls
encounter calls
songs #2


Deserts with cactus, mesquite, and creosote bush, and also sagebrush; partial to rocky places.


Breeds from northeastern California, southwestern Wyoming, and southeastern Colorado southward. Winters north to desert regions of southern United States.


This handsome sparrow of the arid Southwest is well named. Its old name, "Desert Sparrow," is also apt, for despite its vivid markings, it is often difficult to detect among the rocks and scrub, especially when not moving about. However, it may be observed when it mounts a bush or rock to sing its pleasant song. The Black-throated Sparrow is well adapted to the extremes of its habitat. Studies have shown that it has a great tolerance for heat and drought. During the hot months of late summer and early fall it maintains itself on dry seeds and drinks regularly at water holes. After the rains, these sparrows scatter into small flocks and feed on vegetation and insects, from which they derive all the moisture they need. They raise their young in the dry upland desert.


Four white eggs in a loosely built nest of bark strips, grass, and stems, lined with wool, hair, or feathers, and placed in a thorny bush.

Similar Species


Five-striped Sparrow

5 1/2" (14 cm). A very dark sparrow with white stripes above and below eye and at sides and in center of throat. Bold, triangular black "whisker" mark.

adult, Interior

Sage Sparrow

5-6" (13-15 cm). Gray above; white belly with small black midbreast spot. Back and sides striped, wings lighter with buff-colored feather edges that also form 2 wing bars. Pronounced white eye ring.

adult male, breeding

Lapland Longspur

6-7" (15-18 cm). Sparrow-sized. The only longspur in most of the East.

adult male

Black-chinned Sparrow

5-5 1/2" (13-14 cm). A gray sparrow with black chin and eye smudge, pink bill, chestnut-streaked mantle, white belly. Thin white wing bars. Female and juveniles lack black facial markings.

adult, breeding

Harris's Sparrow

7 1/2" (19 cm). Adult has black crown, throat, and chest; pink bill; gray face; brown back, wings, and tail; and white abdomen with spotted or streaked sides.

adult male, breeding

House Sparrow

5-6 1/2" (13-17 cm). Male has black throat, white cheeks, and chestnut nape; gray crown and rump. Female and young are streaked dull brown above, dingy white below, with pale eyebrow.


Eurasian Tree Sparrow

6" (15 cm). Streaked brown above, dull white below. Crown chocolate brown, throat black, cheek white with prominent black spot. Sexes alike.


iPad Promo