Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)

Least Concern

Bell's Sparrow (Artemisiospiza belli)


French: Bruant de Bell German: Salbeiammer Spanish: Chingolo de Bell

Emberiza belli


, 1850,

near Sonoma, California, USA


Previously considered conspecific with A. nevadensis. Race canescens, very similar in appearance to A. nevadensis and possibly hybridizing with it where ranges meet, has been thought perhaps to represent a separate species; alternatively, canescens may simply reunite present species and A. nevadensis; research needed. Race cinerea intergrades with nominate in NC Baja California. Race clementeae should perhaps be subsumed into nominate. Four subspecies provisionally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. b. belli (Cassin, 1850) – Bell's Sparrow – California on W slopes of C Sierra Nevada (S to Mariposa County) and coastal ranges (from Trinity County and Shasta County) S to extreme NW Mexico (NW Baja California S to c. 29° N).
  • A. b. clementeae (Ridgway, 1898) – San Clemente I, off SW California.
  • A. b. cinerea (C. H. Townsend, 1890) – C Baja California (S to 26° N).
  • A. b. canescens (Grinnell, 1905) – Saltbush Sparrow – interior SC California (S San Joaquin Valley, Inyo region, and S & W edges of Mojave Desert) and adjacent W Nevada; non-breeding also W to SW California, E to S Nevada and W Arizona, and S to NE Baja California.
  • Descriptive notes

    13·7–15·7 cm; 12·7–16·8 g. A medium-sized sparrow, with long tail often held cocked. Nominate race has head and nape brownish-grey,... read more


    Song described as “tweesitity-slip tweesitity-slip swer”. Call a short, bell-like... read more


    Generally in dry chaparral and coastal sage scrub, inland valleys, and lower foothills.... read more

    Food and feeding

    Variety of animal and plant items. Generally seeds and other vegetable matter. Young fed with insects. Forages principally on or near... read more


    Season late Mar to Jun (canescens), or mid-Apr to mid-May through early Jun (nominate). Probably monogamous. Singing and territory... read more


    Far N populations of nominate race migratory; insular populations resident. Some nominate birds... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Classified as “Declining” in the USA (Yellow WatchList priority species for conservation). San Clemente race clementeae... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. (2020). Bell's Sparrow (Artemisiospiza belli). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 February 2020).