Living Bird Magazine
Living Bird Magazine
Henslow's SparrowCentronyx henslowii
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Passerellidae
The Henslow’s Sparrow is an easy-to-overlook bird with an almost nonexistent song and a preference for thick, weedy grasslands and wetlands. Its subtle, streaky plumage is worth getting a good look at, though: A mix of tan and buff, with a greenish-washed face the color of a summer hayfield, and sharp black stripes that look drawn on by a freshly sharpened pencil. Henslow’s Sparrows have suffered from conversion of their native grassland habitat for agriculture, but focused conservation efforts have allowed them to rebound in some areas.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Henslow’s Sparrows live among dense grasses and spend much of their time on the ground, so they can be a tough bird to find. While the short, insectlike song does not stand out in any way, it’s still the best way to zero in on this species in their habitat of wet weedy pastures. Watch closely and try to spot them sitting just below the tops of grass stalks and small shrubs, giving the impression of a particularly plump cluster of grass seeds.
- Chingolo de Henslow (Spanish)
- Bruant de Henslow (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Henslow’s Sparrow has the simplest and shortest song of any North American songbird, a thin tze-lick that David Sibley has described as a “feeble hiccup.”
- Henslow’s Sparrow was named by John James Audubon for his friend, John Stevens Henslow, a botanist, a minister, and a teacher of Charles Darwin.
- Henslow's Sparrows sing most actively at dawn and dusk, but sometimes sing all night long.
- Henslow's Sparrows take flight only with great reluctance, preferring to flee from threats by running through the grass.
- Historically, populations of Henslow’s Sparrow were concentrated in two areas: the central prairies of the US and coastal marshes along the Atlantic. As land was cleared between these two regions, Henslow’s Sparrows moved into newly created grassland and largely disappeared from coastal marshes.
- The oldest recorded Henslow’s Sparrow was more than 6 years old when it was recaptured and rereleased in Louisiana in 2001.