Skip Navigation

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow-Ammodramus savannarum/Robert Shantz ©The grasshopper sparrow is a small bird whose natural habitat includes grasslands and marshes.  A secretive bird, it will fly a short distance when flushed and then drop back into the grass out of sight.

This species usually stays hidden unless singing, when they will perch on a weed stalk, shrub, or fence wire and belt out their buzzy song.

This bird conceals its nest underneath existing vegetation on the ground.  Its diet typically consists of insects, including grasshoppers and seeds found by foraging on the ground. It locates prey by sight on the bare ground.  The sparrow paralyzes grasshoppers by pinching their thorax and prepares the insect to feed to the nestlings by shaking off each pair of legs.  A group of grasshopper sparrows are collectively known as a "plague" of sparrows. 

Four of the twelve subspecies of grasshopper sparrow breed in North America.  Breeding takes place in open grass fields and prairies in southern Canada and throughout the United States. During winter months, the grasshopper sparrow migrates to the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.  The current conservation status of the grasshopper sparrow is Least Concern.  Loss of habitat is the cause of a rapid decline in the birds' number, which is a concern to biologists. 

Body size and coloring -
Length Range:         11-14 cm (4.5-5.5 in)
Weight:                       23 g (0.8 oz)
Size:                            2. Small (5 - 9 in)
Color Primary:          Tan, Brown
Underparts:               White with buff sides, flanks and undertail coverts
Upperparts:               Brown with gray-brown streaking
Back Pattern:             Striped or streaked
Belly Pattern:             Solid
Breast Pattern:          Solid

Head colors -
Bill Shape:                 Cone
Eye Color:                  Hazel in juveniles; Dark to light brown in adults
Head Pattern:            Eyeline, Striped, Streaked, Eyering, Unique pattern
Crown Color:             Gray and white striped
Forehead Color:       Gray and white striped
Nape Color:               Gray and white striped
Throat Color:              Buff 

Flight appearance -
Flight Pattern:             Fluttering wing beats; Rapid undulating flight
Wingspan Range:     20-22 cm (8-8.5 in)
Wing Shape:               Pointed-Wings
Tail Shape:                 Pointed Tail
Tail Pattern:                Streaked
Upper Tail:                  Dark Brown
Under Tail:                  Dark Brown
Leg Color:                   Pink

Page Photo Credits — Grasshopper sparrow/Robert Shantz ©
Last Updated: Aug 10, 2012
Return to main navigation