Black-Throated Sparrow

Amphispiza bilineata

Black-Throated Sparrow is a year-round resident in the deserts of the American Southwest and northern Mexico, but some birds will travel to the Great Basin region and the Colorado Plateau to breed. Sparse desert growth, where few other birds frequent, are often attractive areas to these birds.

Populations of these birds have declined over 40% since 1970. Science believes drought and habitat losses from fire-prevention measures and land development are the leading causes of this decline. Unlike some birds, Black-Throated Sparrows have not adapted well to altered and urbanized habitats.

I’ve visited some of the loneliest and barren desert landscapes imaginable. Places that appear to be devoid of animal life are the preferred home of the Black-Throated Sparrow. Listen carefully for soft tinking call notes coming from the direction of some nearby brush or thicket. Such sounds serve as a reminder that even in these harsh conditions, life is possible. With a little luck, a small conservatively dressed light gray-brown sparrow will come out from cover and show you its subdued elegance. Only then can you observe its white-lined face and deep black bib from which it gets its name. If the meeting is in spring, when love is in the air, you’ll probably enjoy the tiny bell-like song of this spirited little bird. Having seen this sparrow on its home turf, I would invite you to look again at its barren homeland and consider whether you still feel the place is lonely.

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