Photo: G. Lasley/Vireo

Le Conte's Sparrow

Ammodramus leconteii

Small and inconspicuous, but beautifully patterned, Le Conte's Sparrow is a bird of damp meadows and shallow marshes. It breeds across the northern prairies and winters in the Southeast. Often very secretive, it hides in dense low growth, flying away weakly when disturbed or simply scurrying away through the grass. In summer on the prairies its quiet song, a soft gasping buzz, may be heard to best advantage very late in the evening on still nights.
Conservation status May have declined in some parts of range as damp fields have been converted to farmland; however, still very common in available habitat.
Family New World Sparrows
Habitat Tall grass, weedy hayfields, marshes. Breeds in wet meadows or the edges of marshes, in areas with damp soil or very shallow water and dense growth of grass, sedges, or rushes. Winters mostly in damp weedy fields, shallow freshwater marshes, coastal prairies.
Small and inconspicuous, but beautifully patterned, Le Conte's Sparrow is a bird of damp meadows and shallow marshes. It breeds across the northern prairies and winters in the Southeast. Often very secretive, it hides in dense low growth, flying away weakly when disturbed or simply scurrying away through the grass. In summer on the prairies its quiet song, a soft gasping buzz, may be heard to best advantage very late in the evening on still nights.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • immature (1st fall)
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Does its foraging on or near the ground, often feeding on the ground under dense cover, sometimes moving about in low vegetation seeking insects. Almost always forages alone.


Eggs

3-5, usually 4. Grayish white, spotted with brown and gray. Incubation is by female only, probably about 12-13 days. Young: Nestlings are fed by the female and possibly by the male. The age at which the young leave the nest is not well known.


Young

Nestlings are fed by the female and possibly by the male. The age at which the young leave the nest is not well known.

Diet

Mostly insects and seeds. Diet is not well known, but apparently eats mostly insects in summer, mostly seeds in winter. Eats caterpillars, leafhoppers, stink bugs, and many other insects, as well as spiders. Also eats seeds of grasses and weeds. Young are fed almost exclusively on insects.


Nesting

Nesting behavior is not well known, partly because the nests are very difficult to find. Male defends nesting territory by singing from a perch within tall grass; may sing by day or night. Nest site is usually a few inches above the ground, sometimes on the ground, well hidden in areas with large amounts of dead grass, rushes, or sedges remaining from preceding seasons. The nest (probably built by the female), attached to standing stems, is an open cup of grass and rushes, lined with fine grass and sometimes with animal hair.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates relatively late in fall and early in spring, with peak passage in many areas during October, March, and April. Rarely strays to Atlantic or Pacific Coast, mostly in fall.

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Migration

Migrates relatively late in fall and early in spring, with peak passage in many areas during October, March, and April. Rarely strays to Atlantic or Pacific Coast, mostly in fall.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
2 very thin, insect-like hisses.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
New World Sparrows Perching Birds

Le Conte's Sparrow

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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