Living Bird Magazine
Grasshopper SparrowAmmodramus savannarum
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Passerellidae
The stubby-tailed and bull-necked Grasshopper Sparrow is easy to overlook throughout its range. When not singing its quiet, insectlike song from atop a stalk in a weedy pasture, it disappears into the grasses where it usually runs along the ground rather than flies. As sparrows go these birds are lightly marked, buffy tan with clean, unstreaked underparts contrasting with brown, gray, and orange above. The flat head, with an almost comically large bill for such a small bird, completes the distinctive look.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Grasshopper Sparrows have a reputation for being hard to find, but learn their thin, buzzing song and you’ll hear it throughout the late spring and early summer emanating from overgrown pastures and hayfields with waist-high grasses. Once you hear the song, search for a small, round bird, often fluttering its wings, sitting a few inches below the top of a grass stalk. Grasshopper Sparrows are weak fliers and don’t tend to move around much on territory, which gives you time to search for the mysterious singer. Also look for them perched on barbed-wire fences adjacent to pastures; they avoid places with too much scrub or ground cover. When not singing, they can be nearly impossible to find, sticking to clumps of grass and running on the ground like mice.
- Chingolo Saltamontes (Spanish)
- Bruant sauterelle (French)
- Cool Facts
- Grasshopper Sparrows are one of the few North American sparrows that sings two different songs. The more common song is a dry insectlike buzz, but they also have a more musical series of squeaky notes that the male gives in flight.
- Appropriately for this species, grasshoppers are the primary prey. Adults prepare grasshoppers for chicks by removing the legs of the insects, vigorously shaking them off pair by pair.
- Grasshopper Sparrows nest on the ground, in a domed nest that is typically hidden at the base of a grass clump.
- The oldest recorded Grasshopper Sparrow was at least 9 years, 1 month old when it was recaught and rereleased during banding operations in Maryland.