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Species Description

Grasshopper Sparrow

Ammodramus savannarum


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae

Description

Dark crown with pale central stripe; white eye ring; buffy ear patch; mottled brown back, wings, and tail; buffy breast, flanks, and belly, usually with no streaking; white throat; two-colored bill, with upper mandible dark and lower yellow or buffy colored. 13 cm (5 in) in length. The head looks relatively flat, sloping back from the bill. The song is made up of one or two notes followed by an insect-like buzz.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in early April, peaks in May, and extends into mid-August. Breeding habitat includes grassy fields. This species nests most often on the ground. The nest is commonly placed within the protective cover of a clump of grass. The cup-shaped nest is built by the female out of grasses and other plant material. She creates or uses a natural hollow so that the rim of the nest is flush with the ground. The female lays 3-6 (usually 4-5) eggs that she incubates for 11-12 days. The young are altricial and fledge approximately 9 days after hatching. Usually, only the female cares for the young in the nest.

Natural History

Grassy fields, especially those with broomsedge (species of Andropogon), are the primary habitats of this species. The Grasshopper Sparrow forages on the ground, picking up the insects and seeds which are the main items in its diet. This species is migratory.

Range

Grasshopper Sparrow Region Map During the breeding season, the Grasshopper Sparrow occurs through most of the United States. In the Southeast, this species occurs in the coastal areas (including all of Florida) during the winter and in the northern areas only during the breeding season. The Grasshopper Sparrow is fairly common throughout Georgia in the winter, and in the northern half of the state it is also fairly common in the breeding season. Some migratory birds spend their winter as far south as northern South America, but in some areas this species occurs all year.

Conservation Status

A Florida subspecies Ammodramus savannarum floridanus is Federally listed as Endangered and listed by the state as Endangered in Florida. The species is also listed as Threatened in Tennessee. Cultivation of fields commonly destroys nests and increases predation upon nests that survive or later nests in the same field.

Similar Species

The common southeastern species most similar to the Grasshopper Sparrow is the Savannah Sparrow. The Savannah Sparrow is slightly larger and has a yellow spot on the lores, area between the eye and the bill, and eyebrow. It also has streaking on its flanks and chest and a dark whisker stripe (a stripe that starts at the bill and runs down the throat).