Henslow's Sparrow

Ammodramus henslowii
Henslow's Sparrow specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

Due in part to its cryptic coloration, Henslow’s Sparrow is more often heard than seen. Buff-colored overall and streaked with black on the back, breast, and face, this bird is well-equipped to blend into its surroundings. This is one of our smaller sparrows, at around 5 inches long. Henslow’s Sparrow primarily breeds in the eastern Great Plains, lower Great Lakes states, and in western Pennsylvania and New York. Isolated breeding areas can be found on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and in eastern North Carolina. In winter, Henslow’s Sparrows migrate south to the Gulf coast and the coastal southeast from southern North Carolina to Florida. This species previously bred in the northeast, but no longer breeds there due to habitat degradation. Henslow’s Sparrow breeds in tall, dense grasslands with a thick layer of dead grass and leaves on the ground. This sparrow forages for grasshoppers and beetles on the ground beneath tall grass. Populations breeding in the northeast bred in salt marshes. Like many grassland-dwelling bird species, Henslow’s Sparrow is best identified by ear, specifically by listening for its simple “tse-zlik” song. Due to its feeding habits and coloration, Henslow’s Sparrows are difficult to see while at rest, and may be most easily seen while on short flights above the grass.

Threat Status: Near Threatened