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Henslow's Sparrow

Ammodramus henslowii ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: EMBERIZIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Near Threatened

An uncommon and famously inconspicuous bird, the Henslow's Sparrow breeds in weedy grasslands of the east-central United States. Its population numbers have declined steadily over the past few decades, largely because of habitat loss.

Jane Kim Mural
ML Essential Set

At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
4.3–5.1 in
11–13 cm
Wingspan
7.9 in
20 cm
Weight
0.4–0.5 oz
10–15 g
Other Names
  • Bruant de Henslow (French)

Cool Facts

  • The Henslow's Sparrow sings most actively at dawn and dusk, but sometimes sings all night long.
  • The Henslow's Sparrow takes flight only with great reluctance, preferring to flee from threats by running through the grass.
  • Henslow's Sparrow was named by John James Audubon in honor of John Stevens Henslow, a botanist, minister, good friend of Audubon, and teacher of Charles Darwin.
  • Originally the distribution of Henslow's Sparrow was concentrated in two areas: the central prairies of the United States and the coastal marshes of the Atlantic Coast. As the forests in the intervening states were cut down, the Henslow's Sparrow moved into the newly created grasslands, connecting the two centers of distribution. It has largely disappeared from coastal marshes.

Habitat


Grassland

Large, flat fields with no woody plants, and with tall, dense grass, a dense litter layer, and standing dead vegetation.

Food


Insects

Insects, mostly grasshoppers and beetles.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
2–5 eggs
Egg Description
Glossy white, with speckles and blotches.
Condition at Hatching
Eyes closed, covered with brownish-gray down.
Nest Description

An open bowl of loosely woven dry grasses, placed in layer of grass litter just off the ground.

Nest Placement

Ground

Behavior


Ground Forager

Not widely observed; probably feeds on the ground.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Near Threatened

Declining in the northeastern portion of its range, and apparently increasing in some other parts, the Henslow's Sparrow has been identified as the highest priority for grassland bird conservation in eastern and midwestern North America by Partners in Flight (PIF), a cooperative effort of many organizations dedicated to bird conservation. Henslow's Sparrow does not have federally protected status in the United States, but is listed as Endangered in seven states, as well as Canada. PIF is promoting establishment of large grassland conservation areas for this and other species. The Conservation Reserve Program, a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that assists farmers in setting aside qualifying land for conservation, has apparently successfully contributed to local population increases in isolated cases.

Credits

  • Herkert, J. R., P. D. Vickery, and D. E. Kroodsma. 2002. Henslow's Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii).In The Birds of North America, No. 672 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Range Map Help

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