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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Henslow's Sparrow -- Ammodramus henslowii

RANGE: Breeds from eastern South Dakota and central Minnesota east to northeastern Massachusetts, and south to central Kansas, northern Kentucky, and east-central North Carolina; also locally in eastern Texas. Winters in coastal states from South Carolina south to Florida, and west to Texas.

STATUS: Uncommon to rare and local. Of special concern on the Blue List due to continued decline in population.

HABITAT: Inhabits meadows and neglected weedy or grassy fields, (often with scattered low bushes) generally preferring situations that are low-lying and damp, but occasionally inhabiting dry or cultivated uplands. Also, inhabits broomsedge fields, old pasturelands, and the drier edges surrounding salt marshes. In winter, frequents grassy openings in pine woods and second-growth woodlands.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Habitats with dense herbaceous vegetation, ground litter, an intermediate moisture range, and singing perches.

NEST: Nests singly or in loose colonies. Places nest in a depression on the ground, at or near the base of a thick grass clump with the base of the nest just above the ground, or 6 to 20 inches above the ground attached to vertical stems of herbaceous vegetation. Conceals nest under overhanging vegetation.

FOOD: During spring, summer, and fall, primarily eats insects (82 percent) and some seeds of weeds and grasses (18 percent) gleaned from the ground.

REFERENCES: Forbush and May 1955, Hyde 1939, Robins 1971, Tate and Tate 1982.

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