Grasshopper SparrowAmmodramus savannarum

adult, Northern
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult, Southwestern
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult, Northern
Rob Curtis/VIREO
Grasshopper Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow

Description

4 1/2-5" (11-13 cm). A small, chunky grassland sparrow with clear buff breast and scaly-looking, dark rufous upperparts. Pale central stripe on crown; short, pointed tail.

Voice

A high-pitched, insect-like kip-kip-kip, zeeee, usually uttered from the top of a weed stalk.

Listen

jumbled song
calls
typical song

Habitat

Open grassy and weedy meadows, pastures, and plains.

Range

Breeds from British Columbia, Manitoba, and New Hampshire south to Florida (rare), West Indies, and Mexico. Winters north to California, Texas, and North Carolina.

Discussion

This elusive sparrow-named for its buzzy song-is sensitive to subtle changes in its habitat. As soon as a weedy field becomes overgrown or trees have filled in an abandoned pasture, the Grasshopper Sparrow no longer uses the site for breeding. In some parts of the country it chooses different habitats, such as palmetto grasslands in Florida. Less of a seed-eater than our other grass sparrows, it feeds largely on insects. When flushed, this sparrow flies a short distance and drops out of sight, into tall grass.

Nesting

4 or 5 white eggs, speckled with red-brown, in a cup of grass, often domed, lined with rootlets and hair and placed on the ground.

Similar Species

adult

Bachman's Sparrow

6" (15 cm). A dull-colored nondescript bird, streaked above, plain below, with buff breast.

adult

Botteri's Sparrow

5 1/4-6 1/4" (13-16 cm). Similar to Cassin's Sparrow but more slender, browner, and less boldly streaked on upperparts, with a more conspicuous eyebrow and a slightly less conical bill.

adult

Baird's Sparrow

5-5 1/2" (13-14 cm). A pale streaked sparrow. Whitish below; breast crossed by a band of narrow black streaks; bright ocher crown stripe.

adult

Saltmarsh Sparrow

5 1/2" (14 cm).

adult

Henslow's Sparrow

5" (13 cm). Dull olive green head, reddish-brown wings, and streaked breast and flanks.

adult

Le Conte's Sparrow

5" (13 cm). Similar to the interior Canadian race of the Sharp-tailed Sparrow, but crown stripe is white instead of gray; wide reddish collar on nape and upper back.

adult, Atlantic

Seaside Sparrow

6" (15 cm). A dark, gray-streaked salt-marsh sparrow with dull yellow "mustache" and dull yellow spot in front of the eye.

adult (Ipswich Sparrow)

Savannah Sparrow

4 1/2-6" (11-15 cm). Pale and streaked, yellowish eyebrow and pinkish legs. Tail notched; other grassland sparrows have shorter, more pointed tails.

adult

Vesper Sparrow

5-6 1/2" (13-17 cm). A grayish, streaked sparrow with white outer tail feathers, narrow white eye ring, and a small patch of chestnut on bend of wing.

adult, Interior

Nelson's Sparrow

5" (13cm) Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow inhabits wetlands year-round.

Vireo

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