GRASSHOPPER SPARROW(Ammodramus savannarum) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Grasshopper Sparrow adult top parts are brown with darker streaks on the back, and two dark brown wing bars. Head cap is brown with a central beige stripe extending down the nape, and a beige stripe on each side of the cap. There is a superciliary yellow patch. Under parts are beige-grey. Eyes are black with a whitish eye ring. Conical bill is beige, legs and feet are pinkish grey. Bird length is about 11 cm (4.5 inches). There are twelve subspecies.
NAME: ‘Sparrow’ derives from Anglo-Saxon ‘Spearwa’, which means ‘flutterer’, and it has been applied to many small birds (Choate). ‘Grasshopper’ refers to the bird’s song, similar to sound of grasshopper. Latin genus name ‘Ammodramus’ means ‘sand’ and ‘to run’. Latin species name ‘savannarum’ means ‘of the meadows’.
HABITAT: Grasslands.
DIET: Seeds, insects, arthropods such as spiders. Hops while foraging (hence the name).
NESTING: Nest is a shallow depression on the ground in a well-sheltered area under vegetation. From three to five whitish eggs are laid, incubated by female. Chicks fed by both parents.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeding range covers southern edge of central Canada and most of the USA (except New England, the southwest and southeast). Winters in southeast USA, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Distribution Map: – /media/
ON PEI: Does not breed on Prince Edward Island, sightings listed as ‘accidental’ so far. See note below on bird vagrancy.
CONSERVATION: Population has declined steadily over last few decades. Habitat loss to agriculture would be one factor.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Henslow’s Sparrow
REFERENCES: (Missouri Department of Conservation)
American Bird Conservancy (Grasshopper Sparrow) (New York Natural Heritage Program) (Montana Field Guide) (University of Michigan) (Texas Breeding Bird Atlas) (Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas)

Grasshopper Sparrow – May 2005 – photo by Dominic Sherony
Grasshopper sparrow, by Dominic Sherony
Grasshopper Sparrow – Clarence Canon NWR, MO – July 2012 – photo by Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren
Grasshopper sparrow, MO, July 2012
Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren
Grasshopper Sparrow – May 2007 – photo by Gregory ‘Slobirdr’ Smith
Grasshopper sparrow singing, by
Gregory 'Slobirdr' Smith