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.

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.


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.


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


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 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

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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

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

2 very thin, insect-like hisses.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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