LeConte's Sparrow Life History

Habitat

Habitat Grasslands

LeConte’s Sparrows live in marshy or wet meadows with dense stands of grasses and sedges. They seem to have no particular preference for the type of grass or sedge, only that the vegetation is appropriately dense. In areas with greater agricultural activity, LeConte’s Sparrows have been recorded nesting in areas like drainage ditches or dikes between wild rice paddies. In the winter they are typically found in old fields or prairies, damp grassy meadows, or coastal grasslands, especially in vegetation about 2 feet tall.

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Food

Food Insects

LeConte's Sparrows eat seeds and insects (and other arthropods). Most of these are taken while foraging on the ground. Specific food items include seeds of bluestem (Andropogon) grasses, forget-me-not, panicgrass, Indiangrass, and dropseed; as well as spiders, weevils, and cicadas.

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Nesting

Nest Placement

Nest Ground

Near the ground to about 1 foot high, in thick clumps of dead grasses, often underneath fallen rushes.

Nest Description

A cup made of fine grasses or rushes, lined with grass or hair. The nest is about 4.3 inches across and 2.6 inches high, with a deep cup around 2.2 inches across and 1.8 inches deep.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:4-5 eggs
Egg Length:0.6-0.8 in (1.6-2 cm)
Egg Width:0.5-0.6 in (1.2-1.4 cm)
Egg Description:Pale greenish covered in fine brown specks
Condition at Hatching:Helpless with sparse brown down.
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Behavior

Behavior Ground Forager

LeConte’s Sparrows are extremely secretive, spending almost all of their time under cover of dense vegetation. On the breeding grounds, nests are often clumped near to each other in patches of appropriate habitat. Males sing from covered perches, and sometimes sing in flight. Mated pairs are socially monogamous, but it's not known how often individuals mate outside the pair. LeConte’s Sparrows seem to maintain territories in the winter as well, though their density is higher (and territories smaller) than on the breeding grounds.

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Conservation

Conservation Declining

LeConte's Sparrow numbers declined by about 2.6% per year between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. This annual estimate works out to a cumulative decline of 73% in that time. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 5.1 million, ranks the species a 13 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and places it on the Yellow Watch List for species with declining populations. If the current rate of decline continues, LeConte’s Sparrow will lose another half of its population by 2060. The largest threat to LeConte’s Sparrow populations in the future is habitat degradation. Since LeConte’s Sparrow requires areas with tall grasses and little woody vegetation, periodic disturbances like fire or haying are necessary to arrest succession and prevent encroachment of woody plants. There are no management strategies in place for LeConte’s Sparrow specifically, but any grassland protection combined with appropriate management will likely benefit this species.

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Credits

Lowther, Peter E. (2005). LeConte's Sparrow (Ammodramus leconteii), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2019). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 1019 Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2019.

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

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2017). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2015. Version 2.07.2017. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

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

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