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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

Grasshopper Sparrow -- Ammodramus savannarum

RANGE: Breeds from southern interior British Columbia and southern Alberta to southwestern Quebec and southern Maine south to southern California, central Colorado, northern and south-central Texas, central Georgia, and central North Carolina. Winters from central California (rare) and southern Arizona to Tennessee and North Carolina south to Central America.

STATUS: Common, but population is declining from the Dakotas and Nebraska east to New York and Maryland.

HABITAT: Prefers prairies in the West and cultivated grasslands, especially those with orchardgrass, alfalfa, red clover, and bush clover, in the East. Inhabits mixed-grass, short-grass, and tall-grass prairies, sage prairies, small grain fields and weedy fallow fields. Avoids fields containing more than 35 percent shrubs, but will occupy grassy habitats with some scattered trees.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Continuous tall herbaceous cover and conspicuous song perches.

NEST: Builds nest in a slight depression on the ground, usually well hidden at the base of a clump of grass or other vegetation, with vegetation arched over the top. May nest singly or in small colonies.

FOOD: Gleans food from the ground. Consumes a diet that is 63 percent insects from fall to spring; also includes spiders, snails, and seeds.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, Smith 1963, Bent 1968b, Tate and Tate 1980.

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