Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Ammodramus savannarum
Population size
34 mln
Life Span
2.9-9 yrs
WEIGHT
14-28 g
LENGTH
10-14 cm
WINGSPAN
17.5 cm

Grasshopper sparrows are small American sparrows that nest and feed mostly on the ground. Adults have upperparts streaked with brown, grey, black and white; they have a light brown breast, a white belly, and a short brown tail. Their face is light brown with an eye-ring and a dark brown crown with a central narrow light stripe.

Distribution

Grasshopper sparrows breed across southern Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Central America, with a small endangered population in the Andes of Colombia and Ecuador. The northern populations migrate to the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Grasshopper sparrows inhabit grasslands, shrubland, open fields, and prairies.

Grasshopper Sparrow habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Grasshopper sparrows are secretive diurnal birds that spend much of their time foraging. They are not social and tend to stay hidden among vegetation. These birds walk or run on the ground while feeding and may sometimes hop. When flushed they fly a short distance and then dive back into the grass to escape threats on foot. Grasshopper sparrows communicate with the help of visual displays and vocally. They flutter with their wings, chase each other and use postures to indicate aggression. The song of these birds is a buzzy 'tik tuk zee', resembling the sound made by a grasshopper. Unlike some other members of their family, Grasshopper sparrows will readily sing from open and exposed perches.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Grasshopper sparrows are carnivores (insectivores). They mainly eat insects, especially grasshoppers, and also consume snails, spiders, centipedes, earthworms, and seeds.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
varies with location
INCUBATION PERIOD
10-13 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
13-29 days
BABY NAME
chick
BABY CARRYING
3-6 eggs

Grasshopper sparrows are serially monogamous and pairs stay together only during one breeding season. The breeding season varies with location and males usually arrive on breeding grounds a few days before females. Once pairs are formed the birds start to build their nest. It is a well-concealed open cup located on the ground under vegetation. Pairs generally raise 2-3 broods per breeding season and each time construct a new nest. The female lays 3 to 6 eggs and incubates them 10-13 days alone; the male during this time protects the nest and the territory from intruders. The chicks hatch blind, helpless, and are covered with grayish-brown down. They leave the nest after 9-10 days but are unable to fly; the young walk or run on the ground in dense cover and are fed by both parents for a further 4-19 days. After that, they become fully independent and start to breed in their first year of age.

Population

Population threats

The main threats to Grasshopper sparrows include habitat loss, destruction of nests due to the mowing of fields, and the use of pesticides by farmers.

Population number

According to Partners in Flight resource the total breeding population size of the Grasshopper sparrow is 34,000,000 breeding birds. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Grasshopper sparrows get their common name for the insect-like song and they are one of the few sparrow species that sings 2 different songs; one song is performed by males to attract the female and another to defend a breeding territory.
  • Grasshopper sparrows are nocturnal migrants and they are rarely seen during migration.
  • In order to hide the location of their nest, Grasshopper sparrows do not fly directly to or from their nest; they walk some distance on the ground before leaving or after arriving.
  • To protect their nest or newly hatched chicks, Grasshopper sparrows will perform broken-wing displays hoping to distract a potential predator.
  • Sparrows are very good swimmers and often use water to escape from the predators.
  • Grasshopper sparrows sometimes have “helpers” that help them with feeding and brooding newly hatched chicks; these "helpers" are juveniles from previous broods.

References

1. Grasshopper Sparrow on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grasshopper_sparrow
2. Grasshopper Sparrow on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22721144/132007482

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