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Grasshopper Sparrow Ammodramus savannarum


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Grasshopper Sparrow
credit: dominic sherony/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Emberizidae, New World Sparrows view all from this family

Description ADULT Has dark brown upperparts overall, but feathers on back and tertials, in particular, have rufous margins. Dark crown has white central stripe and note broad, pale supercilium, grayish behind eye, but buffy in front with color extending onto lores. Has a white eyering and buffy face with a dark spot on ear coverts. Underparts are pale and unmarked, with buff wash on breast and flanks that is more pronounced in fall than spring. JUVENILE Recalls adult, but is heavily streaked on breast and flanks.

Dimensions Length: 4 1/2-5" (11-13 cm)

Endangered Status The Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, a subspecies of the Grasshopper Sparrow, is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered in Florida. This sparrow has suffered because of changes to its habitat. It requires a plant base of saw palmetto, very small dwarf oaks, bluestems, and wiregrass, and has declined in areas where the native vegetation it thrives in has been replaced with introduced pasture plants. Apparently it can survive in areas where the introduced plants are combined with the native plants and the livestock grazing is not too intensive.

Habitat Locally common summer visitor (mainly Apr-Sep) to tall and dense grassy habitats, from prairies to hay meadows.

Observation Tips Easiest to see well in spring when males sing from relatively exposed position.

Range Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Northwest, Texas, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, New England, Florida, Plains, Western Canada, California, Eastern Canada, Southwest

Voice Song is a high-pitched, insectlike buzzing trill preceded by a short tik or tik-tok notes; call is a sharp tsip.

Discussion Secretive, grassland sparrow; seldom willingly leaves cover of its favored meadow habitats. Feeds mainly on insects, but seeds are also eaten. Like other Ammodramus species, has relatively large head, long bill, and short tail. Sexes are similar, but subtle subspecies differences are recognized across range.