Species Assessment for Sage Sparrow (Amphispiza Belli) in Wyoming

Publication Information

Gary Beauvais
Paula L Hansley
Publication Date: 2004-09
Tags: WLCI Agency Report, BLM, WLCI


The Sage Sparrow (Amphispiza belli) is a common breeding bird in landscapes dominated by 
big sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) in western North America.  The species prefers large, undisturbed 
tracts of tall and dense sagebrush.  Such habitat is declining across large areas, and many 
sagebrush obligates such as the Sage Sparrow are showing corresponding declines in distribution 
and abundance.  For example, in Washington over half the native shrubsteppe has been converted 
to agriculture in the last 150 years (Vander Haegen et al. 2000).  In this report, shrubsteppe is 
defined as an environment with a “…co-dominance of sagebrush and native bunch grass and 
moderate shrub cover” (B. Walker, personal communication).  Shrubsteppe habitat is relatively 
homogenous in vegetation compared to other ecosystems (Kitchen et al. 1999), which can make it 
more sensitive to disturbance (Rotenberry 1998). 
The Sage Sparrow is an inconspicuous bird that is often overlooked because it forages while 
well-hidden on the ground, and when perched tends to remain motionless.  Five subspecies are 
recognized (American Ornithologists’ Union 1983), with 4 restricted to the Pacific coast and 
portions of the Southwest and 1 (Amphispiza belli nevadensis) occupying the intermountain west, 
including Wyoming (Martin and Carlson 1998).  This report reviews key published literature, 
focusing on A. b. nevadensis, and presents existing information on the distribution, biology, 
ecological niche, and conservation planning being conducted for the Sage Sparrow on state and 
rangewide scales.  


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