Rufous-Crowned Sparrow

Aimophila ruficeps
Range Map

Not much of a traveler, the Rufous-Crowned Sparrow is a year-round resident of brushy areas in the Southwestern USA and interior Mexico. All my meetings with this species (so far) have been in southern California and southern Arizona.

There is some debate about classification of birds in this genus, as some believe we should classify them as the genus Peucaea, which contains several sparrows in the genus Aimophila (e.g. Rufus-Winged Sparrow).

Science recognises seventeen subspecies of Rufous-Crowned Sparrow. Twelve live in Mexico, and five in the USA. The five found in the USA are:

  • A. r. canescens lives in southwestern California and northeast Baja California. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife listed them as a “species of special concern”, signifying that they are threatened with extinction.
  • A. r. obscura lives on the Channel Islands off the coast of California.
  • A. r. ruficeps lives on the central California Coast to the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada range.
  • A. r. scottii lives in desert mountain ranges of eastern California, east Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and southwestern New Mexico, south into northern Mexico.
  • A. r. eremoeca lives in southeastern Colorado and central Oklahoma south through eastern New Mexico and west-central Texas to northern Mexico.

The genus Aimophila gets its name from the greek aimos, meaning “thicket” and philos meaning “loving”. The species name ruficeps comes from the Latin rufus, meaning “reddish” or “tawny”, and ceps from caput, meaning “head”.

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