WatchList Species Account for Rufous-winged Sparrow (Aimophila carpalis)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Photo: Greg Lavaty

An uncommon and local resident in the Sonoran Desert from south central Arizona south into western Mexico where in some areas it is widespread, the shy and elusive Rufous-winged Sparrow prefers a flat or gently hilly topography with a cover of thornbush and mixed bunchgrass. It is also found along washes with vegetated slopes. Within its limited range and somewhat limited habitat, overgrazing has diminished the sparrow’s numbers and distribution.


The bird was once considered by the American Ornithologists' Union to be extirpated from Arizona due to overgrazing, but it has been detected at many locations in its Arizona range since then. However much of the land near Tucson is now unsuitable for the bird, due to urbanization, grazing, and agriculture. Dependent on rainfall to stimulate nesting, it usually nests only a few days after the summer rains begin. Since its nesting cycle does not match that of the Brown-headed Cowbird, the amount of nest parasitism is limited. Territories are maintained the entire year, and the bird mates for life. Populations fluctuate in response to rainfall. The prime threat to the bird is overgrazing and management beneficial to the species on public lands should be encouraged.