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North Dakota's

Federally Listed Endangered, Threatened, and Candidate Species – 1995

Baird's Sparrow (Ammodramus bairdii)

JPG -- species photo gif--species map

Status: Former Candidate (Note: As of February 28, 1996, this species is no longer listed as a Candidate species. However, it remains a species of management concern.)

Historical Status:
Baird's sparrow was historically very abundant throughout the mixed-grass and tall grass prairie. In 1878, a biologist reported Baird's sparrow has being more abundant than all otber species combined in parts of the Dakotas.

Present Status:
Baird's sparrow is still present only in the Dakotas, Montana, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Within its present range it probably exists only in isolated pockets where native prairie still remains. It winters in the southern United States and northera Mexico. Baird's sparrow is found throughout most of North Dakota where ungrazed or lightly grazed native grass remains. It is extirpated (no longer lives) in the Red River Valley.

The habitat of Baird's sparrow consist of upland prairies of mixed-grass or tall grass habitat types. Common grasses found in its habitat are blue grama, needle-and-thread, and little bluestem. Baird's sparrow does not do as well in heavily grazed areas. Baird's sparrow may occassionally make use of alfalfa, weedy stubble felds, or other agricultural fields although these habitats are not preferred.

Life History:
Male Baird's sparrows stake out 1 to 2 acre territories from which they call for mates. Females nest in semicolonial flocks. Breeding occurs from early June to late July. The courtship ritual of Baird's sparrow consist of the male walking slowly toward the female with its head withdrawn, tail spread, and wings vibrating alternately over his back. The female selects a nest site on the ground, usually with dense overhead vegetation. The nest is lined with grass, forbs and other fine materials. Approximately 4 small eggs are laid in the nest. Incubation takes about 12 days. The young leave the nest about 10 days after hatching and can fly about 13 days after hatching. The young are fed a diet of 100% insects. Adults feed on grass and forb seeds in addition to insects.

Aid to identification:
Like most sparrows, Baird's sparrow is difficult to identify. The sexes are outwardly similar. Baird's sparrow is about 5 and 1/2 inches in length. The breast is streaked with black stripes giving the appearance of a necklace. A black stripe borders each side of the throat. It has a conspicuous ochre colored center strip on top of its head. Baird's sparrow is very secretive and hard to spot. It is reluctant to fly and prefers to run along the ground. The song is three or four musical zips and ends with a low trill. It sings frequently during the breeding season.

Reasons for decline:
Intensive agriculture and heavy grazing have decreased habitat. The bird is now relegated to the few remaining pockets of native prairie. Baird's sparrow is probably susceptible to pesticides because of the young sparrows dependence on insects.

Remaining pockets of mixed grass or tall grass prairie should be protected. Pesticides should be restricted in areas inhabited by Baird's sparrow.

Baird's sparrow was named by John James Audubon after his friend, 19th century zoologist Spencer Baird.

Breeding Birds of North Dakota by R. Stewart, 1975.

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