Photo: Rick & Nora Bowers/Vireo

Priority Bird

Grasshopper Sparrow

Ammodramus savannarum

A flat-headed, short-tailed little sparrow of the fields, the Grasshopper Sparrow may go unnoticed even when it is singing, because its song is much like the buzz of a grasshopper. The birder who learns this sound may spot the bird perched on a weed stalk or the lowest wire of a fence. When not singing, the bird stays out of sight; if disturbed it flies away low for a few yards before diving headfirst back into the grass.
Conservation status Still common in some areas but has declined significantly in others. Florida race is seriously endangered, with very limited range.
Family New World Sparrows
Habitat Grassland, hayfields, prairies. Breeds in rather dry fields and prairies, especially those with fairly tall grass and weeds and a few scattered shrubs. Also nests in overgrown pastures and hayfields, and sometimes in fields of other crops. In Florida, nests in prairie with scattered palmettos. During migration and winter, found in many types of open fields.
A flat-headed, short-tailed little sparrow of the fields, the Grasshopper Sparrow may go unnoticed even when it is singing, because its song is much like the buzz of a grasshopper. The birder who learns this sound may spot the bird perched on a weed stalk or the lowest wire of a fence. When not singing, the bird stays out of sight; if disturbed it flies away low for a few yards before diving headfirst back into the grass.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, Northern
  • adult, Southwestern
  • adult, Northern
Feeding Behavior

Forages while hopping or running on the ground, picking up items from the soil or from plant stems. Almost always forages alone.


Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3-6. Creamy white, spotted with reddish brown and gray. Incubation is by female only, about 11-12 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 9 days after hatching, before they are able to fly well.


Young

Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 9 days after hatching, before they are able to fly well.

Diet

Mostly insects and seeds. In summer feeds mostly on insects, including many grasshoppers, also beetles, caterpillars, ants, true bugs, and many others. Also eats spiders, snails, centipedes, and earthworms. Seeds are also important in diet, probably more so in winter, including those of weeds and grasses as well as waste grain.


Nesting

May nest in small colonies; numbers in a given area often change markedly from year to year. Male sings from a low perch to defend territory; sometimes sings at night. In courtship, sometimes sings in flight. Nest site is on the ground, very well hidden at base of weed, shrub, or clump of grass. Often placed in slight depression, so that rim of nest is even with level of ground. Nest (probably built by female) is an open cup of dry grass, lined with fine grass, rootlets, sometimes animal hair. Usually has partly domed back and sides of grass woven into overhanging vegetation, leaving opening at front.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

Apparently migrates mostly at night. Peak of migration in many areas during late April and October.

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Migration

Apparently migrates mostly at night. Peak of migration in many areas during late April and October.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A high-pitched, insect-like kip-kip-kip, zeeee, usually uttered from the top of a weed stalk.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

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