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Henslow's Sparrow

Ammodramus henslowii

Length: 5 inches Wingspan: 6.75 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Rusty-brown back and wings with dark streaks, olive-green wash on head, white undersides with dark streaks on sides and upper chest. 

Henslow's Sparrow - Ammodramus henslowiiHenslow's Sparrows are poorly understood birds of parts of the eastern United States.  Populations have been in decline for several decades for reasons that aren't completely understood.  Males will sing their incredibly short and unremarkable song from high perches in weeds and shrubs during the summer, but otherwise, they are very hard to observe as they typically forage on the ground in thick weedy vegetation.

Habitat: It is thought that population declines are due to habitat losses, but habitat requirements for the species are poorly understood.  They are often found in weedy fields and meadows, often damp or marshy, with standing tall weeds and shrubs.  They have also been found using abandoned pastures and farm fields.

Diet: Insects and spiders make up most of the summer diet.  Seeds also make up a portion of the diet, and may be the primary food item in the winter.

Behavior: Does most of its foraging by walking along the ground, usually alone and not in flocks.  Males will perch on exposed tall weeds and sing their very short and unremarkable courting song.

Nesting: June and July

Breeding Map: It is thought to breed intermittently in the eastern part of South Dakota, but only one confirmed breeding report exists (per SDOU).

Song: Strange monosyllabic hslick

Migration: Summers throughout much of the Midwest, the eastern Great Lakes region, parts of the Mid-Atlantic, and parts of the eastern Great Plains.  Winters in the southeastern U.S. 

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Henslow's Sparrow sightings

Similar Species: Vesper Sparrow, Baird's Sparrow

Conservation Status: Has undergone a sharp decline in the last several decades, probably due to loss of habitat.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Henslow's Sparrow

2) WhatBird - Henslow's Sparrow

3) Audubon Guide - Henslow's Sparrow

Photo Information: Photo from Ohio courtesy of Lana Hays


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Henslow's Sparrow - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Casual migrant and summer resident in the eastern part of the state.

Additional Henslow's Sparrow Photos (coming soon!)