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Harris's Sparrow

Silhouette SparrowsSparrows
Harris's SparrowZonotrichia querula
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Passerellidae

Basic Description

It's not often that a sparrow takes center stage, but the Harris's Sparrow is a showstopper with its handsome black bib and pink bill. It’s North America's largest sparrow (except for towhees) and the only songbird that breeds in Canada and nowhere else in the world. In winter it settles in the south-central Great Plains, where it is a backyard favorite. Unfortunately, Harris's Sparrow populations are declining; its restricted range make it vulnerable to habitat loss on the wintering and breeding grounds.

More ID Info
image of range map for Harris's Sparrow
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Unless you are ready to brave a trip to far northern Canada in the summer, you'll need to catch the Harris's Sparrow during migration or on the wintering grounds. Unlike many sparrows that tend to skulk around in dense scrubby patches of vegetation, Harris's Sparrows aren't very shy and often forage out in the open. Look for them foraging with other sparrows in shrubby areas and fields. Their size alone should make them stand out in the crowd. They also visit bird feeders, so if you live in their wintering range, try putting up a ground or platform feeder and stocking it with black oil sunflower seeds. Although they winter in a relatively small part of the continent, they tend to wander a lot during migration so you never know where one might show up. One or more individuals have shown up in every state in the lower 48.

Other Names

  • Chingolo de Harris (Spanish)
  • Bruant à face noire (French)

Backyard Tips

This species often comes to bird feeders, and likes black oil sunflower seeds, millet, and cracked corn. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list. Birdscaping your yard to include brush piles and other bird-friendly features can provide spots for them to forage and take refuge during migration and the winter. For other ways to make your garden more hospitable in winter, read Bird-friendly Winter Gardens.

  • Cool Facts