Amphispiza bilineata bilineata

Status:  Rare casual summer visitor. Rare casual winter visitor east.

Documentation:  Photograph: 17 Dec 1973 Omaha, Douglas Co (Meier 1974; Williams 1974).

Taxonomy: There are nine subspecies recognized, six in Mexico, and three in the US (Pyle 1997): deserticola, breeding and wintering from California to southwest Wyoming and southwest New Mexico, opuntia, breeding and wintering from southeast Colorado and western Oklahoma to southeast New Mexico and southwest Texas, and bilineata, resident in central-southern Texas.

One that frequented a feeder in Omaha in winter 1997-98 was attributed to the southern Great Plains subspecies bilineata based on the extensive white spots on the outer rectrices (Green 1997; Rising 1995). It is possible that spring-summer vagrants and winter visitors are of different subspecies.

Summer: Presumably the Nebraska sightings are of overshooting spring migrants; such birds occur regularly north in the eastern Colorado foothills (Andrews and Righter 1992) and into Wyoming, where there are only three spring reports in the east, 27 Apr-19 May (Faulkner 2010). Hunn (1978) suggested that drought conditions in spring within the normal breeding range triggered vagrancy in this species.

There are three records:

26 May 1984 near Keystone in Keith Co (Rosche and Johnsgard 1984)

26 Jun 1972 Toadstool Park, Sioux Co (Rosche 1972)

26 Aug 2014 at Lincoln Co feeder (Brogie 2015).

Winter: There are five records, all documented:

4 Dec 1973-6 Feb 1974 Omaha (cited above)

5 Dec 2015-10 Jan 2016 Creighton, Knox Co (Brogie 2016, 2017)

early Dec 1997-12 Apr 1998 Bellevue, Sarpy Co (Green 1997; Brogie 1998)

2 Jan-early Mar 1993 Dixon Co (Gubanyi 1996; Cortelyou 1993a, 1993b; Grzybowski 1993).

31 Mar-9 Apr 1993 Lancaster Co (Gubanyi 1996).

The Lancaster Co bird may have wintered in the vicinity as had the other wintering birds  in the east. This would be a very early spring date for vagrants of this species; there is a similar Kansas record 10 Mar, also easterly, in Sedgwick Co (Tallman et al 2002).

There are two winter records for Missouri, both in the northwest, 15-20 Jan 1993 at Skidmore and one near Savannah 3 Dec 2009-16 Jan 2010 (Robbins 2018), a single South Dakota record, at Vermillion the last two weeks of Dec 1971 (Tallman et al 2002), and one for Iowa, at Waterloo 16 Mar-9 Apr 1993 (Kent and Dinsmore 1996).


Photograph (top) of a Black-throated Sparrow in Creighton, Knox Co 8 Dec 2015 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

Andrews, R., and R. Righter. 1992. Colorado birds.  Denver Museum of Natural History, Denver, Colorado, USA.

Brogie, M.A. 1998. 1997 (Ninth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 66: 147-159.

Brogie, M.A. 2015. 2014 (26th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 83: 125-138.

Brogie, M.A. 2016. 2015 (27th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 84: 138-150.

Brogie, M.A. 2017. 2016 (28th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 85: 128-142.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1993a. Notes on Bird Sightings in Nebraska. Black-throated Sparrow. NBR 61:90.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1993b. The Spring 1993 Occurrence Report. NBR 61: 94-136.

Faulkner, D.W. 2010. Birds of Wyoming. Roberts and Company, Greenwood Village, Colorado, USA.

Green, R.C. 1997. Black-throated Sparrow banded in Omaha, Nebraska. NBR 65: 179.

Gubanyi, J.G. 1996. 1992, 1993 (Fifth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 64: 30-35.

Grzybowski, J.A. 1993. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 47: 272-273.

Hunn, E.S. 1978. Black-Throated Sparrow vagrants in the Pacific Northwest. Western Birds 9: 85-89.

Kent, T.H., and J.J. Dinsmore. 1996. Birds in Iowa. Publshed by the authors, Iowa City and Ames, Iowa, USA.

Meier, M. 1974. Another Black-Throated Sparrow in Nebraska. NBR 42: 18-19.

Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.

Rising, J.D. 1995. A guide to the identification and natural history of the sparrows of the United States and Canada. Academic Press, San Diego, California, USA.

Robbins, M.B. 2018. The Status and Distribution of Birds in Missouri. University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, Lawrence, Kansas, USA.

Rosche, R.C. 1972. Notes on the distribution of some summer birds in Nebraska. NBR 40: 70-72.

Rosche, R.C., and P.A. Johnsgard. 1984. Birds of Lake McConaughy and the North Platte River Valley, Oshkosh to Keystone. NBR 52: 26-35.

Tallman, D.A., Swanson, D.L., and J.S. Palmer. 2002. Birds of South Dakota. Midstates/Quality Quick Print, Aberdeen, South Dakota, USA.

Williams, F. 1974. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 28: 656-660.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2018.  Black-throated Sparrow (Plectrophenax nivalis). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 6 Jul 2018