The song sparrow is medium sized sparrow that has heavily streaked gray-brown upperparts. Its underparts are a dull white that includes a dark central breast spot with thick streaks. Its head has brown crown, paler median stripe, pale gray eyebrow, white chin and a dark brown moustache stripe. It has rust-brown wings and a tail that is long and usually tinged rust-brown. The Channel Islands song sparrow has longer feet, a longer tail and wings, and is also grayer.
The Channel Islands song sparrow is limited to San Miguel and Santa Rosa Island. It is also a transient visitor in the spring and fall to Anacapa Island. It was a former resident of Santa Barbara Island where it was driven to extinction by predation (cats) and habitat destruction brought about by introduced rabbits.
The song sparrow is distributed widely in North America and occur in many different habitat types, most often inhabiting shrubs on moist ground near freshwater, saltwater or coastline. On San Miguel the song sparrow has been found to be most abundant in areas with dense shrubs, and unlike on the mainland, were found in areas well-removed from water, perhaps due to the availability of considerable fog-moisture on San Miguel. Song sparrow use of Santa Rosa habitats was also not tied to water availability. Song sparrows utilized riparian areas but did not prefer them. They strongly selected for coastal sage scrub and grassland, while avoiding chaparral, woodland and pine habitat types.
The song sparrowforages on the ground, in shrubs or in very shallow water. Anecdotal observations from San Miguel Island suggest that its diet is similar to that of song sparrows on the mainland. The year-round diet of song sparrows in California is composed of 21% insects and 79% plant. Insects, such as beetles, caterpillars, bees, ants and wasps, true bugs, and flies. These are an important component of the diet in the spring, when animal prey make up 71% of overall diet versus 3% in September The song sparrow also eats crustaceans and mollusks on the coast.
Song sparrows at San Miguel construct compact, open nest bowls of twigs, herbs, parts of shrubs, weed stems, grass stems, and dry leaves deep, which they line with fine grasses or leave unlined. The nest is typically constructed deep within the nest plant, where they are concealed by the protective canopy from island fox predation. This subspecies also tends to build heavier nests and locate them on the leeward side of a shrub because of the winds. 6The female lays two to six red brown marked, pale green eggs are laid in a cup nest 2 to 4 feet above the ground. Incubation ranges from 12 to 14 days and is carried out by the female who raises up to three broods per season. Both parents are involved in feeding the nestlings that remain in the nest from 9 to 12 days.
The Channel Islands song sparrow is listed by the State of California as a Species of Special Concern. In addition, the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service lists it under the heading of Birds of Conservation Concern.
Last updated: June 28, 2016