New York Natural Heritage Program
Grasshopper Sparrow
Ammodramus savannarum (Gmelin, 1789)

Identifying Characteristics [-]
Adults: Grasshopper Sparrows are small, with a long bill and proportionally large, flat head, and a complete white eye ring. Birds are gray-brown above and the breast is unmarked buffy. The crown is dark with a pale central stripe. The tail is short and slightly rounded. Sibley (2000) describes northern birds with an "intricate pattern of rufous spots" on the wings and a buffy face with a dark spot on the rear auriculars. Sexes are similar. Juveniles are similar to adults except for a band of streaks on the breast.

The song is described as one or two high notes followed by a grasshopper-like buzz. Flight song is a series of short, buzzy note. The call is a double or triple ticking note. Both males and females sing.

Nests are cup-shaped and made of grasses that are well hidden on the ground. Typically, a dome is made over the nest with overhanging grasses.

Eggs are white with light, reddish-brown speckles. The clutch size ranges from three to six eggs.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification [-]

Behavior [-]
When females leave their ground nest, they hop away from it before taking flight. If they are flushed from the nest, they hop a short distance from the nest and feign injury as a distraction. Both males and females sing. Males tend to sing away from the nest (Vickery 1996).

Diet [-]
Grasshopper Sparrows typically eat insects, especially grasshoppers, and seeds.
The Best Time to See
Grasshopper Sparrows are most easily found during the breeding season from late May through July when they remain on territories and males can be heard singing. Migrants are rarely found before late April and after October in New York.
Present Breeding
The time of year you would expect to find Grasshopper Sparrow present (blue shading) and breeding (orange shading) in New York.
Similar Species
  • Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)
    Savannah Sparrows have streaked breasts.
  • Henslow's Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii)
    Henslow's Sparrows have an olive-ish face and a double malar stripe. They also prefer wetter grassland habitats.