Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)


Worthen's Sparrow (Spizella wortheni)


French: Bruant de Worthen German: Mexikoammer Spanish: Chingolo de Worthen

Spizella wortheni


, 1884,

Silver City, New Mexico, USA


Has been considered conspecific with S. pusilla, but latter appears closer to S. atrogularis. Recently published molecular data indicate that present species is sister to S. breweri, suggesting that plumage similarities to S. pusilla reflect convergence; song reminiscent of that of S. passerina, but genetic work suggests that they are not sister-taxa. Race browni known only from three specimens taken at the type locality (near Sombrerete, in W Zacatecas); may not be valid (and indeed the population in question may no longer be extant), but is provisionally accepted here pending further study. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. w. wortheni Ridgway, 1884 – SE Coahuila and SW Nuevo León, in NE Mexico.
  • S. w. browni Webster & Orr, 1954 – W Zacatecas, in NC Mexico.
  • Descriptive notes

    11–14 cm; 9·5–15 g. A small, slim, long-tailed sparrow. Male nominate race has crown rusty, becoming grey towards bill, grey nape; side of face greyish,... read more


    Song a high “peee churrrr”, first note slurred, and usually on lower pitch, also... read more


    Arid upland mesquite–juniper (ProsopisJuniperus) and yucca–... read more

    Food and feeding

    Little information. Probably mostly seeds in winter, augmented with other plant food; insects e.g. moths (Lepidoptera), also spiders (... read more


    Peak of breeding activity in Zacatacas, Coahuila and Nuevo León in Jun and Jul, with juveniles observed in Aug; timing of nesting... read more


    Apparently sedentary; probably some short local movements in non-breeding season.

    Status and conservation

    ENDANGERED. Rare and very local. Has extremely small range and population, both though to be decreasing. Global population probably no more than 100–120 mature... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. (2019). Worthen's Sparrow (Spizella wortheni). 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 18 November 2019).