Bird GuideNew World SparrowsGrasshopper Sparrow

At a Glance

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.
New World Sparrows, Perching Birds
Low Concern
Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Flitter, Running

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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


4 1/2-5" (11-13 cm). Big-headed, short-tailed, with flat forehead. Crown has central white stripe bordered by thick dark stripes, otherwise mostly plain buff on face and chest. Gray nape with fine pink stripes, heavily striped back.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Brown, Tan, White
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Notched, Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

A high-pitched, insect-like kip-kip-kip, zeeee, usually uttered from the top of a weed stalk.
Call Pattern
Flat, Rising, Undulating
Call Type
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Trill


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.



4-5, sometimes 3-6. Creamy white, spotted with reddish brown and gray. Incubation is by female only, about 11-12 days.


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

Feeding Behavior

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


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.


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.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Still common in some areas but has declined significantly in others. Florida race is seriously endangered, with very limited range.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Grasshopper Sparrow. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Grasshopper Sparrow

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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