Harris's Sparrow Zonotrichia querula Scientific name definitions

Christopher J. Norment, Scott A. MacDougall-Shackleton, Doris J. Watt, Peter Pyle, and Michael A. Patten
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated December 2, 2016

Conservation and Management

Effects of Human Activity

Shooting and trapping

Not known to occur, although in winter and spring foraging birds occasionally captured in Sherman live traps baited with grain (Cook 2004).

Pesticides and other contaminants/toxins

No information.

Ingestion of plastics, lead, etc

Not known to occur.

Collisions with stationary/moving structure or objects

Reported killed during fall migration at a television tower in Nebraska (Mollhoff 1979), but no information on numbers or frequency.

Degradation of breeding habitat

Because Harris' Sparrows breed only in isolated parts of northern Canada, it is unlikely that human activities on their breeding grounds will influence status in the foreseeable future. Potential causes of habitat loss include post-fire deforestation near the northern limit of tree growth (Black and Bliss 1980, Arsenault and Payette 1992, Flannigan et al. 2001) and reduction of forest-tundra area due to global warming (Rizzo 1988, Zoltai 1988, Payette et al. 2001).

Disturbance At Nest And Roost Sites

No data.

Direct human/research impacts

Daily visits to nest had no impact on birds breeding along Thelon River, Northwest Territories (Norment 1992a); otherwise, no data.


Conservation status

No national legal status in the United States or Canada, although protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Status listed as Yellow (declining species) on Audubon Watch List (National Audubon Society 2002a). Designated as a common bird in steep decline (CBSD) on Partners in Flight species assessment database (Partners in Flight Science Committee 2012). Although the Partners in Flight Species Assessment ranks Harris’s Sparrows as category 2, both for Threats to Breeding score and Threats to Non-breeding score, its Population Trend score is 5, indicating that the species has declined ≥ 50% over the last 30 years; the Harris’s Sparrow’s Continental Combined Score is 13, meaning that it is classified as a Continental Watch List species (Partners in Flight Science Committee 2012, Rich et al. 2004). Listed as a breeding Species of Continental Importance, Management Action Category, in the Arctic and Northern Forest Avifaunal Biomes (breeding range primarily in Bird Conservation Regions 3, 6, and 7; Rich et al. 2004). Listed as a priority species in five Bird Conservation Regions (19, 29, 21, 25, 36) in the heart of its winter range (USFWS 2002c). Listed as a Bird of Conservation Concern in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 2 (Southwest) and nationally (USFWS 2002c). Several National Wildlife Refuges in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas support substantial numbers of Harris’ Sparrows during winter. Only the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, Northwest Territories, in the central part of the breeding range protects breeding habitat, although a proposed National Park on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake would do that as well.

Measurements proposed and taken

No actions taken, other than listings described above (see Conservation Status). Continental population objectives in the Partners in Flight North American Landbird Conservation Plan are a 100% increase in the Arctic and Northern Forest Avifaunal Biomes (Rich et al. 2004).

Recommended Citation

Norment, C. J., S. A. MacDougall-Shackleton, D. J. Watt, P. Pyle, and M. A. Patten (2020). Harris's Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.harspa.01