Bachman's Sparrow Life History


Habitat Open Woodlands

Bachman's Sparrows are residents of open pine woodlands with wiregrass and saw palmetto in the understory. They also occur in grassy areas, oak-palmetto scrub, powerline cuts, and clearcuts with little to no shrubs in the understory. Bachman's Sparrows tend to abandon clearcuts older than 7 years and forest patches that haven't burned in 4 or more years.

Back to top


Food Seeds

Bachman's Sparrows forage on the ground for seeds, primarily grass seeds, and insects.

Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Ground

Bachman's Sparrows nest on the ground typically at the base of a small shrub, pine seedling, or a clump of grass. Vegetation often covers the nest from above, such that the nest looks domed. On rare occasions they also nest up to an inch and a half above the ground in a clump of grass or a flowering plant.

Nest Description

The female clears a spot of ground and digs a small scrape. She then starts collecting grasses, rootlets, and other plant material, weaving it all together to form a cup-shaped nest. Females frequently incorporate vegetation above the nest into the nest cup to form a dome over the nest.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:2-5 eggs
Number of Broods:1-2 broods
Egg Length:0.8-0.8 in (1.9-2.1 cm)
Egg Width:0.6-0.6 in (1.5-1.6 cm)
Incubation Period:12-14 days
Nestling Period:9-10 days
Egg Description:


Condition at Hatching:

Mostly naked with eyes closed.

Back to top


Behavior Ground Forager

Bachman's Sparrows walk and hop along the ground foraging for seeds and insects. It seems at most times that they would rather run than fly. When they do fly, they pump their tail and have a rather weak and labored-looking flight. Males defend their territories against other males with quivered wings, bouncing up and down, and shifting side to side. Pairs form monogamous bonds and typically spend the year in pairs or small family groups.

Back to top


Conservation Red Watch List

Bachman's Sparrows are rare and their populations declined by 76% between 1970 and 2014, according to Partners in Flight. They are a Red Watch List species with a Continental Concern Score of 16 out of 20. Partners in Flight estimates that the global breeding population is 190,000 and if current rates of decline continue, Bachman's Sparrows will lose another half of their remaining population by 2040. Historically the pine woodlands naturally burned every 3–5 years, which helped maintain the open parklike understory that supports Bachman's Sparrows as well as the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. When fire is excluded from pine woodlands for more than 3 to 5 years the understory becomes too dense and shrubby for Bachman's Sparrows. Pulpwood production and management, as is common in the South, uses shorter harvest timelines and results in dense stands of small trees instead of the large, open-grown pines that Bachman’s Sparrows use. Conservation efforts that use prescribed burning every 2–3 years have proven successful at increasing the number of Bachman's Sparrows. Mechanical thinning and herbicide treatments also create habitat conditions favored by Bachman's Sparrows.

Back to top


Dunne, P. (2006). Pete Dunne's essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, USA.

Dunning, J. B., P. Pyle, and M. A. Patten (2018). Bachman's Sparrow (Peucaea aestivalis), version 3.1. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A., and A. S. Love (2017). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2017.1. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory, Laurel, MD, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Rising, J. D. (1996). A Guide to the Identification and Natural History of the Sparrows of the United States and Canada. Academic Press, NY, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

Back to top

Need Bird ID Help? Try Merlin