Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)

Least Concern

Large-billed Sparrow (Passerculus rostratus)


French: Bruant du Sonora German: Kalifornienammer Spanish: Chingolo picudo

Emberiza rostrata


, 1852,

seashore at San Diego, California, USA


Traditionally treated as conspecific with P. sandwichensis and P. guttatus, and often also with P. sanctorum, but all differ in morphology and plumage and, to some extent, in ecology; separation at species level supported by recent molecular findings. Geographical variation apparently clinal, but difficult to determine as populations not distributed continuously along coast. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. r. rostratus (Cassin, 1852) – NE Baja California (delta of R Colorado, San Felipe) and NW Sonora (mouth of R Colorado S to Patos I), in NW Mexico; non-breeding N to extreme SW USA (Salton Sea, Santa Cruz and Channel Is, all in S California) and on both shores of Baja California S to Cabo San Lucas.
  • P. r. atratus van Rossem, 1930 – coast of Sonora (Tepopa Bay and Kino Bay) S to C Sinaloa (El Molino); non-breeding individuals perhaps wander to extreme S Baja California.
  • Descriptive notes

    13–14·5 cm; 21–25·2 g. Medium-sized sparrow with large bill. Nominate race is light greyish-brown above, crown flecked blackish and with indistinct... read more


    Primary song a variable, rather unmusical series of high-pitched chips and buzzes, often as “... read more


    Coastal saltmarshes with pickleweed (Salicornia), Allenrolfea, sea blight... read more

    Food and feeding

    Variety of decapods, especially fiddler crabs (Uca), also isopods and amphipods, as well as Salicornia seeds (probable),... read more


    Breeds mid-May through early Jun, mostly in May. Nest made from dried Salicornia and saltgrass (Distichlis) and other... read more


    Some individuals breeding along coast of N Sonora wander in post-breeding season, many moving N to... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to abundant; local in occurrence. Habitat greatly reduced through residential and recreational development. In California listed as “Species... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. (2020). Large-billed Sparrow (Passerculus rostratus). 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 25 February 2020).