LeConte's sparrow

LeConte's sparrow

LeConte's sparrow

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Ammospiza leconteii

LeConte's sparrow (Ammospiza leconteii ) is one of the smallest New World sparrow species in North America.

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It is a very secretive bird that prefers to spend most of its time on the ground under the cover of tall grasses. They are typically very difficult to flush, often only flushing at a distance of 1–3 m as they prefer to run across the ground. When they do emerge they rarely fly more than a foot or two above the grass and often descend again within a few meters. Because it is so rarely seen, there are still many gaps in knowledge about the LeConte's sparrow. Nests are often very hard to find, and individuals are more often identified by sound than by sight.

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LeConte's sparrow is a small sparrow with a relatively large head, short grey bill and short pointed tail. It has a buffy yellow-orange face with grey cheeks, and a dark brown crown with a white central stripe. The nape of the neck is lilac grey with chestnut streaks, and the back is streaked with brown and beige. Its belly is off white, while the breast and sides are a buffy orange-yellow with dark brown streaks. The feet and legs are a brownish-pink colour.



Biogeographical realms

LeConte's sparrow breeds in select areas of north eastern British Columbia, across Alberta, Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba as well as central Ontario and into Quebec; and as far south as northern Michigan, Montana and Minnesota. It winters in the south eastern United States; as far west as central Texas and as far north as central Illinois and Missouri.

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LeConte's sparrow prefers moist open grassy areas with sufficient vegetation cover to provide shelter. Known habitat use includes meadows, fields, crop stubble, shallow marshy edges, prairie, and occasionally fens and lake-shores within the boreal forest. Studies have shown that vegetation seems to have a greater impact on the abundance of this bird than other factors like climate or patch size. Winter et al. (2005) says that it can be found at highest densities in areas with a "moderate amounts of bare ground". Agriculture and drainage of these areas is currently the greatest threat to the LeConte's sparrow.

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LeConte's sparrow habitat map
LeConte's sparrow habitat map
LeConte's sparrow
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Habits and Lifestyle

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Diet in the summer is mostly insects such as weevils, leafhoppers, leaf beetles, stinkbugs, caterpillars, moths and spiders. During the winter time the main diet consists of seeds of grasses and weeds such as northern dropseed, Indian grass, yellow foxtail, panic-grass, scorpion-grass, little bluestem, and big bluestem.

Mating Habits

Mating can start as early as late April but peaks in mid-May. Males will sing from the cover of dense grasses, perched on tall grass or in flight. Clutches range from two to six eggs with four being the most common. Incubation is done solely by the female, though both parents aid in feeding. Incubation lasts an average of 11–13 days. Hatchlings are altricial with dull brown downy patches. Pairs will have one or two broods per year. Due to the secretive nature of this bird little is known about the period of time between hatching and fledging.

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Nests are built by the female and are cup shaped, made from fine grasses and lined with soft grass and hair. They are usually attached to standing grasses or sedges and are built on or close to the ground.

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1. LeConte's sparrow Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LeConte's_sparrow
2. LeConte's sparrow on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22721135/94700099

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