Whenever I drive through open areas filled with sagebrush, I look for the inconspicuous Sage Sparrow. This bird of sagebrush and other low shrubs of the arid west spends much of its time on the ground, running between shrubs, flying up to the top branches every now and then to take a look, and then back to the ground and does its disappearing act into the landscape. Two favorite places to find this sparrow is on the road going to Babylon just north of Leeds, and the open sagebrush area east of Grafton. Check the tops of the sagebrush and look for a small gray bird with a raised tail. I call myself lucky when I see a Sage Sparrow for this bird was listed as a threatened species in 1977.
From the 50's to the 80's our family enjoyed many outings in sagebrush areas to hike, hunt, and sightsee. Bird life was abundant and sagebrush so heavy you had to weave your way through it like a corn maze. Sagebrush may look half dead at times, but this plant adapts perfectly to harsh dry conditions, cold winters, and blazing hot summers. It’s not often and you think of the disappearance of a bush and a bird in the same sentence, but when sagebrush is gone, ‘So Goes the Sage Sparrow’. When sagebrush is removed, and a drought comes along, or there is over grazing by cattle, the area can turn into a huge dust bowl. Vast areas in the US west have lost their native sagebrush habitat due to fire, drought, and farm land expansion. Today range management is correcting many of the practices of the past and hopefully the future will be brighter for the dwellers of the sagebrush community.
Judy Warren is the artist for the Sage Sparrow. We are happy that such a neat artist has moved permanently to our area. If you would like more information about the Sage Sparrow or Red Cliffs Audubon Field Trips, call Marilyn Davis at 435 673-0996.