Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Grasshopper sparrow
Ammodramus savannarum

 

Taxonomy
Occurence in Illinois
Status
Habitat associations
Guilds
Food-habits
Environmental associations
Life history
Management practices
References


TAXONOMY

 

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Emberizidae
  • Genus: Ammodramus
  • Species: Ammodramus savannarum
  • Authority: Gmelin

Comments on taxonomy:
Recorded as Fringilla savannarum by Gmelin, 1789 (syst. Nat., 1 (2), p. 921). Type local: Jamaica; subspp. A.s. pratensis occurs in IL *02*. Hybrid cross with savannah sparrow has been recorded. Also known as yellow-winged sparrow *03*.

 


OCCURENCE IN ILLINOIS

Common migrant and summer resident. Very rare winter resident in central and south. Seen in IL mid-Apr to early Oct *01*.

 


STATUS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories
Forest Service Categories: S = recommended for regional sensitive status, F = forest listed species, M = management indicator species

Federal Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed for listing
Candidate for proposal Recovery plan approved Recovery plan received (USFWS)
Recovery plan in preparation Under notice of review Delisted
Migratory EPA indicator Forest Serv.- Shawnee species

State Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed

Other:

Game Furbearer Nongame protected
Sportfish Commercial Pest None of the above

Comments on status:
Is a non-game species protected under IL wildlife code laws, 1971 *04* and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 1918 *05*.

 


HABITAT ASSOCIATIONS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories

General habitat:

Unknown Terrestrial Aquatic Riparian

USFS timber inventory forest size class:

Unknown Unstocked Seedling Sapling
Seedling/sapling Pole Mature Over mature

Land use and land cover:

Unknown   Urban Residential
Commercial
Industrial
Transportation, communication
Complex industrial/commercial
Mixed
Other
Agricultural Crop, pasture
Orchards, groves, nurseries
Feedlot
Other
Rangeland Herbaceous
Shrub and brush
Mixed
Forestland Deciduous
Evergreen
Mixed
Water Stream
Lake
Reservoir
Bay
Wetland Forest
Non-forest
Barren Salt flat
Beach
Sand
Rock
Mine
Transit
Mix

 


Forest cover types:

Cover typeStructural stageCanopy closureSeason
White pine - northern red oak - red maple Grass-forb
Shrub-seedling (trees 1" dia.)
Unknown All
Shortleaf pine - oak Grass-forb
Shrub-seedling (trees 1" dia.)
Unknown All
White-red-jack pine Grass-forb
Shrub-seedling (trees 1" dia.)
Unknown All
Oak - pine Grass-forb
Shrub-seedling (trees 1" dia.)
Unknown All

Associated tree species: No records.

National wetland inventory classifications:

SystemSubsystemClassSubclassWater regime modifiersWater chemistry
Upland   Flat Vegetated pioneer
Vegetated nonpioneer
Seasonal/well-drained nontidal Freshwater

Comments on species-habitat associations:
Mainly inhabits manager grasslands; also prairies, old fields. Seems to avoid areas of 35% or more shrubbery *02,06*.

Important plant and animal association: Grasshoppers are main food for this sparrow *03,06*.

High value habitats

HabitatStructural stageSeason
Agricultural land Grass-forb All
Cropland and pasture Grass-forb All
Other agricultural land Grass-forb All
Wetland Grass-forb All
Nonforested wetland Grass-forb All
Upland forest Grass-forb All
Prairie Grass-forb All
Savanna Grass-forb All
Sedge meadow Grass-forb All
Agricultural field Grass-forb All
Cropland Grass-forb All
Successional field Grass-forb All
Abandoned cropland Grass-forb All
Early abandoned cropland Grass-forb All

Species-habitat interrelations: Mainly inhabits managed grasslands, also prairies, old fields. Seems to avoid areas of 35% or more shrubbery *02,06*.

 


GUILDS

Feed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonFeed-guilds
Agricultural land
Nonforested wetland
Grass-forb All Terrestrial surface-flowers and fruits of grass/grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface-flowers and fruits of forbs
Terrestrial surface- arthropods
Terrestrial surface- invertebrates other than arthropods

Comments on feed-guilding:
Food mainly insects, esp. grasshoppers. also eats spiders, myriapods, snails, earthworms, waste grain; weed, grass and sedge seeds *03*.

Breed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonBreed-Guilds
Agricultural land
Nonforested wetland
Grass-forb All Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Shrub strata, grass and grasslike vegetation extending into shrub strata

Comments on breed-guilding:
Nests on ground at base of grass clump, alfalfa, clover, etc. *03*.


FOOD-HABITS

Trophic level is OMNIVORE

Food itemLife stage/plant part
Plants Fruit/seeds
Oxalidaceae (wood sorrel, oxalis) Fruit/seeds
Polygalaceae (milkwort) Fruit/seeds
Lythraceae (loosestrife, purslane) Fruit/seeds
Plantaginaceae (plantains) Fruit/seeds
Asteraceae (asters) Fruit/seeds
Monocotyledonae (monocots) Fruit/seeds
Annelida: Oligochaetas (earthworms) Unknown
Mollusca: Gastropoda (snails) Unknown
Arthropoda Unknown
Arachnida (spiders, ticks, scorpions, daddy longlegs) Unknown
Insecta Larva, adult
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Juvenile, adult
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult, unknown
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Larva, unknown
Hymenoptera (ants, wasps, bees) Unknown
Important:
Insecta Larva, adult
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Juvenile, adult
Adult:
Plants Fruit/seeds
Oxalidaceae (wood sorrel, oxalis) Fruit/seeds
Polygalaceae (milkwort) Fruit/seeds
Lythraceae (loosestrife, purslane) Fruit/seeds
Plantaginaceae (plantains) Fruit/seeds
Asteraceae (asters) Fruit/seeds
Monocotyledonae (monocots) Fruit/seeds
Annelida: Oligochaetas (earthworms) Unknown
Mollusca: Gastropoda (snails) Unknown
Arthropoda Unknown
Arachnida (spiders, ticks, scorpions, daddy longlegs) Unknown
Insecta Larva, adult
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Juvenile, adult
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult, unknown
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Larva, unknown
Hymenoptera (ants, wasps, bees) Unknown

Comments on food habits: 
General: Mainly eats grasshoppers. In one study, they formed 23% food during 8 months of the year; 60% of food in Jan., 37% from May to Aug. From Feb. to Oct., 63% of food was animals, 37% vegetable. Insects comprised 57% total food; spiders, myriapods, snails and earthworms made up 6%. Of the insects, "harmful" beetles (click beetles (Clateridae), weevils (Sitones et. al), and smaller leaf beetles (Systens spp.) made up 8%, caterpillars (cutworms) made up 14%. Vegetable matter eaten included waste grain, grass, weed and sedge seeds *03,06*.


ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATIONS

General:

  • Ecotones: old field/water
  • Ecotones: crop field/water
  • Ecotones: crop field/grassland
  • Ecotones: grassland/water
  • Ecotones: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Grasses: see comments
  • Ground cover- shrub (%): see comments
  • Agricultural crops: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Vegetation successional stage: climax grassland
  • Vegetation successional stage: see comments

Feeding adult:

  • Ecotones: old field/water
  • Ecotones: crop field/water
  • Ecotones: crop field/grassland
  • Ecotones: grassland/water
  • Ecotones: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Grasses: see comments
  • Ground cover- shrub (%): see comments
  • Agricultural crops: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Vegetation successional stage: climax grassland
  • Vegetation successional stage: see comments

Breeding adult:

  • Ecotones: old field/water
  • Ecotones: crop field/water
  • Ecotones: crop field/grassland
  • Ecotones: grassland/water
  • Ecotones: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Grasses: see comments
  • Ground cover- shrub (%): see comments
  • Agricultural crops: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Vegetation successional stage: climax grassland
  • Vegetation successional stage: see comments

Comments on environmental associations:
General: Mainly inhabits managed grasslands; also prairie, old fields, natural grasslands. In one study, were absent from fields with 35% of more shrub cover *02,06*. Plants that spp. found around include: orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata), alfalfa (Medicago sativa), red clover (Trifolium pratense), lespedeza (Lespedeza spp.), dewberry (Kubus spp.), broomsedge (Andropogon spp.), red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), bayberry (Morella pensylvanica), poverty grass (Danthonia spicata). May be more frequent in prairie grasses than bluegrass *06*. Nests on ground at base of grass clump, alfalfa, clover, etc. *03*.
Breeding adult: Nests in grasslands on ground at base of grass clump, alfalfa, clover, etc. *03*.


LIFE HISTORY

Origin: Native.

Physical description: 4 1/2- 5 1/4 In. Long; wingspread 8-8 1/2 in.; Sexes outwardly similar. Only sparrow of grasslands without streaks or markings on breast; short bristly tail; flat-headed. Crown has pale stripe through center; yellow spot between eye and bill. Yellow at bend of wings. Upperparts streaked, gray-brown; breast and flanks buff; immature has streaked breast *03*.

Reproduction: Egg dates Apr to Aug: incubation by female, 11-12 days; 3-6, usually 4-5, cream-white, speckled, brown-spotted eggs laid. Commonly 2 broods per season *03*.

Behavior: Male rigidly defends territory with song until young hatch. Territory size 1.2-3.3 acres (ave. 2.03 acres). Ave. size of 6 terr. = 3.4 acres *06*. Nests in loose colonies. Nest is sunk in slight depression in ground; is at base of grass clump, alfalfa, clover, etc. Nest materials include grass, horsehair, rootlets *03*. Spp. migrates to IL in mid-Apr. Is summer resident usually to early Oct *01*. May winter in central and southern IL *01*. Young leave nest when nine days old *03*.

Limiting factors: Predators include skunks, weasels, foxes, cats, hogs, marsh hawks, sharp-shined hawks. Are sometimes parasitized by cowbirds *06*. May avoid areas with more than 35% shrub cover *06*.

Population parameters: Unknown.

 


MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Beneficial:

  • Maintaining undisturbed/undeveloped areas
  • Maintaining unique or special habitat features (wetlands, snags, caves, cliffs, talises, etc.
  • Performing special survey prior to prescription
  • Performing field survey prior to prescription
  • Seasonal restriction of human use of habitats
  • Controlling pollution
  • Practices other than those included on the ifwis list (see comments)
  • Retaining crop residue (over winter)
  • Controlled grazing of domestic livestock
  • Develop/maintain prairie

Adverse:

  • Haying/mowing
  • Applying pesticide on agricultural land
  • Applying insecticide
  • Strip mining
  • Applying pesticides
  • Applying insecticides
  • Mowing
  • Application of pesticides
  • Application of insecticides

Comments on management practices:
Spp. needs mainly grassland habitat; seems to prefer less than 35% shrub cover *02,06*. Feeds mainly on insects, esp. grasshoppers, making insect control detrimental *02,06*.

 


REFERENCES

0. SHERMAN, R.A. 1986. ILL. NAT. HIST. SURV., 607 E. PEABODY DR., CHAMPAIGN, IL. 61820. (217)333-6846.

1. BOHLEN, H. 1978. AN ANNOTATED CHECK-LIST OF THE BIRDS OF ILLINOIS. ILLINOIS STATE MUS. POP. SCI. SER., VOL. IX. 156 P.

2. AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION. 1984. CHECK-LIST OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. 6TH EDITION. ALLEN PRESS, INC. LAWRENCE KS. 877 P.

3. TERRES, J. 1980. AUDUBON SOCIETY: ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. ALFRED KNOPF, NEW YORK. 1109 P.

4. ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION. 1980. CONSERVATION LAWS. CH. 61. WILDLIFE. ART. II. PAR. 2.2. REPRINTED FROM ILLINOIS REVISED STATUTES, 1979. WEST PUBL. CO., ST. PAUL, MN. 123 PP.

5. U.S. FISH WILDLIFE SERVICE. 1983. CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS. TITLE 50. WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES. CHAPTER 1. PP. 11-18. 50 CFR 10.13. LIST OF MIGRATORY BIRDS. SPECIAL PUBL. FEDERAL REGISTER. GENERAL SERVICES ADMIN. OCTOBER 1.

6. SMITH, R.L. 1968. GRASSHOPPER SPARROW. IN LIFE HISTORIES OF NORTH AMERICAN CARDINALS, GROSBEAKS, BUNTINGS, TOWHEES, SPARROWS, AND ALLIES, COMP. A.C. BENT ET. AL., ED. O.L. AUSTIN, JR. U.S. NATL. MUS. BULL. NO. 237, PT. 2. WASHINGTON, D.C.

 


 

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