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Henslow's Sparrow


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.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
4.3–5.1 in
11–13 cm
7.9 in
20 cm
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.
  • The oldest recorded Henslow's Sparrow was at least 6 years, 6 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Louisiana in 2001.



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



Insects, mostly grasshoppers and beetles.


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 Forager

Not widely observed; probably feeds on the ground.


status via IUCN

Near Threatened

Henslow's Sparrow populations declined between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 400,000, with 100% of birds living in the U.S. The species rates a 14 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Henslow's Sparrow is on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List, which includes bird species that are most at risk of extinction without significant conservation actions to reverse declines and reduce threats. It is both a Tr-National Concern species and a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species. 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. It is listed a Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. 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. 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.


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