This species is the largest sparrow. They range in total length from 17 to 20 cm (6.7 to 7.9 in), with a 27 cm (11 in) wingspan and weigh from 26 to 49 g. Breeding plumage birds have a black crown, face, throat and upper breast, contrasting with grey on the sides of the head and neck. The back is brown, overlaid with heavy black streaking. There are two white wing bars. Breeding birds have white lower underparts with some black mottling on flanks. Non breeding adults are buffy, with reduced black markings and whittish scalloping on the head and throat.
Habitat and Distribution
Their breeding habitat is the north part of central Canada. This bird is Canada's only endemic breeder. In the winter they migrate to the Great Plains states of the United States, from lower South Dakota to upper Texas. Spring migration begins around late February, and they use mountain valleys as migration routes. They breed in stunted coniferous forests and and scrubs.The species migrates mainly through tallgrass ,to winter in open woodlands, hedgerows, and riparian thickets.
The Harris's Sparrow generally feeds on the ground, scratching vigorously in the leaves and soil for food. They eat mainly beetles, flies, bees, ants, moths, butterflies, spiders, cicadas, aphids and leafhoppers.
The breeding territory is about 200 to 300 square kilometers and nests are constructed in early to mid June. The birds lay eggs when snow has completely melted, from three to five eggs. The eggs are greenish to grey with some small reddish brown spots. Nests are placed in a well-hidden spot on the ground underneath a thick bush. Both parents build a cup nest out of twigs, grass, moss and lichens and line it with fine grasses.
Calls and Songs
The song consists of a series of one or more clear high wavering whistles. Their call is a strong metallic chink as well as some variable musical twittering.