Rufous-crowned Sparrow

Aimophila ruficeps

Uncommon and sparsely distributed, the Rufous-winged Sparrow resides from California, southern Arizona, and southern New Mexico east to Texas and central Oklahoma.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • The Rufous-crowned Sparrow was described in 1852 by John Cassin as Ammodramus ruficeps. It is also known as the Rock Sparrow because of its preference to live on rocky slopes.
  • The derivation of the current genus name, Aimophila, is from aimos, 'thicket' and phila, 'loving'. Its species name is a literal derivation of its common name, derived from the Latin words rufus 'rufous' and -ceps, from caput 'head'.
  • Male sparrows maintain and defend their territories throughout the year.
  • A group of sparrows has many collective nouns, including a "crew", "flutter", "meinie", "quarrel", and "ubiquity" of sparrows.


  • Size: 13-14 cm (5-6 in)
  • Wingspan: 21 cm (8 in)
  • Weight: 13-17 g (0.46-0.6 ounces)
  • Small sparrow.
  • Gray head with solid rufous crown.
  • Rufous stripe behind eye.
  • one black mustache stripes on each side of bill.
  • Streaked upperparts.
  • Plain gray underparts.
  • Long, rounded tail.
  • Crown with thin light stripe down middle.
  • Gray bill, pinkish.
  • Eyes brown.
  • Legs brownish.
Sex Differences
Sexes look alike.
Juvenile lacks strong rufous of adult, and is streaked on chest.
Range Map
Taxonomic Hierarchy


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae
Genus: Aimophila
Species: Aimophila ruficeps
  • Aimophila ruficeps australis

  • Aimophila ruficeps boucardi

  • Aimophila ruficeps canescens

  • Aimophila ruficeps duponti

  • Aimophila ruficeps eremoeca

  • Aimophila ruficeps extima

  • Aimophila ruficeps fusca

  • Aimophila ruficeps laybournae

  • Aimophila ruficeps obscura

  • Aimophila ruficeps pallidissima

  • Aimophila ruficeps phillipsi

  • Aimophila ruficeps ruficeps

  • Aimophila ruficeps rupicola

  • Aimophila ruficeps sanctorum

  • Aimophila ruficeps scottii

  • Aimophila ruficeps simulans

  • Aimophila ruficeps sororia

  • Aimophila ruficeps suttoni

Song is a series of short clear notes or longer whistles, followed by a trill. Calls include a very high "tzeet" and short pips.

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
  • Length Range: 15 cm (6 in)
  • Weight: 20 g (0.7 oz)
  • Size: 2. Small (5 - 9 in)
  • Color Primary: Gray
  • Underparts: Gray
  • Upperparts: Gray-brown with red-brown streaking.
  • Back Pattern: Striped or streaked, Mottled
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
  • Bill Shape: Cone
  • Eye Color: Brown or tan.
  • Head Pattern: Eyeline, Capped, Striped, Eyering, Malar or malar stripe
  • Crown Color: Red-brown
  • Forehead Color: Red-brown
  • Nape Color: Red-brown
  • Throat Color: White
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Short flights., Alternates several rapid wing beats with wings pulled to sides.
  • Wingspan Range: 23 cm (9 in)
  • Wing Shape: Pointed-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Rounded Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Dark Brown
  • Under Tail: Dark Brown
  • Leg Color: Pink-gray
  • Breeding Location: Grasslands, Forests
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Solitary nester
  • Breeding Population: Common locally
  • Egg Color: White to pale blue
  • Number of Eggs: 2 - 5
  • Incubation Days: 11 - 13
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Bark, sticks, weeds, and grass., Lined with mammal hair.
  • Migration: Nonmigratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless with sparse dark down.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Rufous-winged Sparrow is smaller, dusky upper bill, pinkish lower mandible, and two thin black mustache stripes on each side of bill.

Conservation Status

Habitat loss from grazing and development has led to declines and elimination of local Rufous-crowned Sparrow populations.


Sources used to Construct this Page:

Inhabits open oak woodlands and dry uplands with grassy vegetation and bushes, often near rocky outcrops.
  • P. E. Lowther, K. D. Groschupf, and S. M. Russell. 1999. Rufous-winged Sparrow (Aimophila carpalis). In The Birds of North America, No. 422 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Seeds and arthropods.
Pecks at ground and at bases of grass stems.

Adult Sexes Similar

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Additional Photos & Video

Adult Sexes Similar


All photos 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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