English and Scientific names:

Brewer’s Sparrow (Spizella breweri)

Number of individuals: 




Specific Locality:

Johnsons Bayou area

Date(s) when observed:


Time(s) of day when observed:  

Mid-day, perhaps around 12:00.  Other observers probably have more accurate time info.

Reporting observer and address:

Paul Conover

Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):

Mac Myers; also Tori Bacheler, David Muth, Dan O’Malley, Dave Patton, Curt Sorrells, Phillip Wallace.

Other observers who independently identified the bird(s)


Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light):

Light was bright, good for viewing. 

Optical equipment: 

Zeiss 10s, Nikon d200 w/300 mm lens.

Distance to bird(s): 

10-15 feet.  

Duration of observation:

About 3-5 minutes


Scrubby thicket, mainly acacia and cactus   

Behavior of bird: 

The bird was in a dense acacia with several other passerines (Palm Warblers, etc.).  It was moving furtively within the bush.  I got a brief look at it and saw an eyering; Mac saw it from a different vantage point and saw that the crown was undivided by a central stripe. 


A small, slim, long-tailed sparrow of the same general proportions of Chipping and Clay-colored sparrows.  Overall very pale and drab.


Ground color of mantle and crown sandy brown, divided by broad, diffuse grayish hind-collar.  The grayish hind-collar broken by and mingled with a broad area of fine brownish and blackish streaking continuing rearwards from crown. 


Mantle with somewhat widely spaced narrow dark streaks forming a series of lines down back. 


Flight feathers of folded wing medium-dark-brown centered with paler brownish bases, with distinct whitish and sandy-brown edges.   


Underparts clear gray, or mostly so.


Tail brownish, as flight feathers.  Tail in feather replacement; one tail feather per side was of normal length.  These were pointed, probably juvenile generation of feathers.  Rest of tail short, growing in simultaneously as though replacing feathers lost outside of normal molt process.  Overall effect of a fork-tailed individual.   


Face pattern indistinct.  Sides of face pale grayish-brown, with auriculars weakly defined by blurry sandy brown outline especially on lower edge.  Similarly indistinct malar stripe.  Little contrast between supercilia, auriculars, and rest of face, but with thin, complete, distinct whitish eyering.  Crown sandy brown with lighter brown and grayish tones mixed in, streaked finely with blackish (and continuing through nape, see above).   


Bill small, pale pinkish or flesh with broadly darker culmen. 


Legs flesh, with dusky wash. 




I think David Muth heard a Spizella call from the bush, but I may be misremembering.  I don’t recall anyone hearing a species-distinct call.     

Similar species:

Other possible Spizellas, Chipping and especially Clay-colored, very close in appearance and require detailed separation.  Pale lores on this individual should rule out Chipping. 


Separation from Clay-colored more difficult. The well-streaked nape, lack of central crown stripe, complete whitish eyering, overall weakly defined face pattern and pale, drab coloration are features that individually might conceivably fall within range of Clay-colored Sparrow; however, I think the combination of all of these pro-Brewer’s features should eliminate Clay-colored.    

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

Yes, a short series. These photos show all important areas of the bird. 

Previous experience with this species: 

Not much.  Seen before in sagebrush areas, but not extensively.  However, I have pretty wide experience with Clay-colored Sparrows in various plumages and at different times of year.

Identification aids:


This description is written from: 

Memory, photos.

Are you positive of your identification? If not, explain: 


I believe the combination of features of this bird support its ID as a Brewer’s.

Date and time: