Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Henslow's Sparrow
Ammodramus henslowii

 

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 henslowii
  • Authority: Audubon

Comments on taxonomy:
Other name -- Henslow's bunting *04,13*. Sometimes referred to as Passerherbulus henslowii henslowii *07,10*.

 


OCCURENCE IN ILLINOIS

In south, very rare winter resident *01,06,08*. Occassional migrant and local summer resident in north and central portions of state *01, 06,08*. Breeds locally in southern Ill. *07*. Nest yearly near Beverly, Adams Co., and at Goose Lake Prairie *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:
Species protected by Illinois Wildlife Code of 1971 and the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 *19,20*. Current status associated to species' decline since 1900 due to the loss of prairie nest habitat *06*.

 


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:
No records.

Associated tree species:
No records.

National wetland inventory classifications:

SystemSubsystemClassSubclassWater regime modifiersWater chemistry
Palustrine   Emergent vegetation Persistent Unknown/unspecified Unknown/unspecified
Palustrine   Flat Vegetated nonpioneer Unknown/unspecified Unknown/unspecified

Comments on species-habitat associations:
Grassy wet areas used *03,08,10,11,12*. Marshy openings and wet meadows mentioned *10,13,18*.

Important plant and animal association: Lepidoptera larvae, grasshoppers, crickets. These species important food items, especially for young *08,11, 13,16*.

High value habitats

HabitatStructural stageSeason
Central and eastern grasslands - bluestem prairie Grass - forb Spring/summer
Central and eastern grasslands - bluestem prairie Grass - forb Fall
Cropland and pasture Grass - forb Spring/summer
Cropland and pasture Grass - forb Fall
Nonforested wetland Grass - forb Spring/summer
Nonforested wetland Grass - forb Fall
Mesic prairie Grass - forb Spring/summer
Mesic prairie Grass - forb Fall
Abandoned cropland Grass - forb Spring/summer
Abandoned cropland Grass - forb Fall
Abandoned forageland Grass - forb Spring/summer
Abandoned forageland Grass - forb Fall

Species-habitat interrelations: Type of habitat (taller, dense grassland mixes) function (nesting, breeding, feeding) value (high) season (spring through fall). Thicker, taller grasslands important because species will not breed in or will abandon a field that has been mowed *10,11*. Abandoned fields with dense ground cover often used *06,10,13*. Open grasslands with wet areas favored *03,06,07,08,10,11*.

 


GUILDS

Feed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonFeed-guilds
Nonforested wetland Grass - forb All Terrestrial surface - flowers and fruits of grass/grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface - leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds of deciduous shrubs
Terrestrial surface - flowers and fruits of forbs
Terrestrial surface - arthropods
Prairie Grass - forb All Terrestrial surface - flowers and fruits of grass/grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface - leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds of deciduous shrubs
Terrestrial surface - flowers and fruits of forbs
Terrestrial surface - arthropods
Successional field Grass - forb All Terrestrial surface - flowers and fruits of grass/grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface - leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds of deciduous shrubs
Terrestrial surface - flowers and fruits of forbs
Terrestrial surface - arthropods

Comments on feed-guilding:
Forage in taller grasses *11,13*. Feeds mostly on insects *04,08, 10,11,13,16*. Some plant matter eaten *08,13,21*.

Breed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonBreed-Guilds
Nonforested wetland Grass - forb Spring/summer Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface, forb vegetation
Shrub strata, grass and grasslike vegetation extending into shrub strata
Shrub strata, forb vegetation extending into shrub strata
Mesic prairie Grass - forb Spring/summer Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface, forb vegetation
Shrub strata, grass and grasslike vegetation extending into shrub strata
Shrub strata, forb vegetation extending into shrub strata
Successional field Grass - forb Spring/summer Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
Terrestrial surface, forb vegetation
Shrub strata, grass and grasslike vegetation extending into shrub strata
Shrub strata, forb vegetation extending into shrub strata

Comments on breed-guilding:
Hyde (1939) reports that mating takes place on a bush. Other breeding activities (courtship, nesting) done on ground in cover of dense grass *03,04,05,07,10,11,12,13*.

 


FOOD-HABITS

Trophic level is OMNIVORE

Food itemLife stage/plant part
Rosaceae (rose, cherry, plum, apple) Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass) Fruit/seeds
Arachnida (spiders, ticks, scorpions, daddy longlegs) Adult
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Adult
Homoptera (cicadas, aphids) Adult
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Larva
Hymenoptera (ants, wasps, bees) Adult
Important:
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Adult
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Larva
Juvenile:
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Adult
Homoptera (cicadas, aphids) Adult
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Larva
Hymenoptera (ants, wasps, bees) Adult
Adult:
Rosaceae (rose, cherry, plum, apple) Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass) Fruit/seeds
Arachnida (spiders, ticks, scorpions, daddy longlegs) Adult
Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches) Adult
Homoptera (cicadas, aphids) Adult
Coleoptera (beetles) Adult
Lepidoptera (butterflies, moths) Larva
Hymenoptera (ants, wasps, bees) Adult

Comments on food habits:
General: Hyde (1939) states that species feeds on 80% animal matter. Foraging in taller grasses *11,13*. Opportunistic with no intersexual differences in selection of prey, see robins (1971). Grasshoppers, beetles, crickets and lepidoptera larva mentioned most often *04,08, 10,11,13,16*.
Juvenile: About 1/2 of diet of young before age of 3 days is lepidoptera larva and soft abdomens of grasshoppers and crickets *08,16*. Not known when adult food habits begin.
Adult: See [FH].


ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATIONS

General:

  • Aquatic habitats: see comments
  • Vegetation mosaics/edges: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Herbs-leguminous forbs: see comments
  • Grasses: see comments
  • Ground cover- shrub (%): see comments
  • Ground cover- forb (%): see comments
  • Ground cover- grass (%): see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: abandoned fields
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries
  • Unknown

Limiting:

  • Vegetation mosaics/edges: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Ground cover- shrub (%): see comments
  • Ground cover- forb (%): see comments
  • Ground cover- grass (%): see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: abandoned fields
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland

Egg

  • Unknown

Feeding juvenile:

  • Aquatic habitats: see comments
  • Vegetation mosaics/edges: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Herbs-leguminous forbs: see comments
  • Grasses: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: abandoned fields
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Resting juvenile:

  • Aquatic habitats: see comments
  • Vegetation mosaics/edges: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Herbs-leguminous forbs: see comments
  • Grasses: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: abandoned fields
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Feeding adult:

  • Aquatic habitats: see comments
  • Vegetation mosaics/edges: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Herbs-leguminous forbs: see comments
  • Grasses: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: abandoned fields
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Resting adult:

  • Aquatic habitats: see comments
  • Vegetation mosaics/edges: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Herbs-leguminous forbs: see comments
  • Grasses: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: abandoned fields
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Breeding adult:

  • Aquatic habitats: see comments
  • Vegetation mosaics/edges: see comments
  • Grassland: see comments
  • Meadows: see comments
  • Old fields: see comments
  • Herbs-leguminous forbs: see comments
  • Grasses: see comments
  • Vegetation successional stage: abandoned fields
  • Vegetation successional stage: stable prairie/grassland
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Comments on environmental associations:
General: Wiley (1964) lists clover, orchardgrass and gueen anne's lace as cover species. Meadows, open grasslands and weedy and abandoned fields, all with wet areas, dense grass-forb mosaics and scattered small woody growths appear to be essential *01,03,06,07,08,10,13,18*.
Feeding juvenile: Nestlings fed by both parents *08,10,16*. Other stages of juvenile feeding not known, assumed to feed as adults, see comments on feeding adults.
Resting juvenile: Resting assumed to take place where nest is found (on ground or just above) when young *00,03,04,10,13,14*.
Feeding adult: Forage in taller grasses *11,13*. Forage up to 65 yards away from nest see Robins (1971).
Resting adult: Little known. Assumed to take place in shrubs and grasses *00*.
Breeding adult: Courtship done in dense cover of grasses *08*. Mating reported to be done on a bush, see Hyde (1939).


LIFE HISTORY

Origin: Native *01*

Physical description: length 4-3/4 to 5-1/2 inches *02,04,05,07,09, 13*. Weight about 13 grams *08,16*. Wingspread 50-55 mm. *07,13,15*. Sexes similar *03,13,16*. Color- a greenish tone on head, neck and face with dark reddish-brown on wings and back. Two streaks on side of throat and more streaking on breast *02,03,04,07,10,13,16*. Black streaks back from eye *07*. Short tail, flat-headed, pale bill *02,03, 05,09,13*.

Reproduction: Breeding season begins with spring arrival in mid-April and the onset of courtship in mid-May *01,08,10,12,13*. Territories established by male singing from forbs and strong grass stems *10,11, 12,15*. These territories are defended by the male, but not very aggressively *08,12,13,16*. Courtship behavior marked by male singing and fluttering of wings, all taking place under the cover of the dense grasses, see hyde (1939). Flanigan (1975) states that "most of the birds' activities, aside from singing, take place chiefly under cover of the dense grass." Singing continues until a drop off after eggs hatch *08*. Mating occurs from May to July *08,09*. Nesting season extends into mid or late August in Ohio and Michigan *12,14*. Male stays close to nest during breeding season *10*. Loose colonies are formed at this time *03,07,10,13,15*. Nest is a loosely woven cup of coarse and fine grass with linings of hair, parially domed over with linger grasses *03,04,05,07,08,10,11,12*. Built by female in old clearings, pastures and fields, well concealed among tall grasses *04, 05,08,10,13*. Built on ground near clump of grass or just above ground, attached to stems *03,04,10,11,12,13,14*. The length of breeding season suggest that there are two broods per season *08,10, 12,13*. Four to five pale green eggs with reddish-brown spotting per clutch *03,04,05,09,10,12,12,18*. Eggs are laid from late may to late August in Ohio and Michigan *08,12,13,14*. Incubation period 10-11 days, by female *07,08,10,13*. Hatching from mid-June to early August *08,10,14*. Young dull brownish buff, streaked and spotted with black, light buffy beneath. Detailed in Hyde (1939). Young cared for by both parents *08,10,16*. Brooding done by female *16*. Young leave nest 9-10 days after hatching *08,10,13,14*. Robins (1971) reported a nesting success of 55% and that 17 young fledged from a total of 11 nests, or 1.55 fledged per nest. In August, immatures venture into new territories *08*.

Behavior: Loose territorial boundries averaged between 0.8 and 2.4 acres *10,12,13,15,16,18*. Dispersion of young in August *08*. Species begins its migration to wintering grounds in southern states from mid-Oct. to Dec. *03,04,08,10,12*. Foraging in taller grasses *11,13*. Opportunistic with no intersexual difference in prey selection. Male forages at distance farther away from nest than female, up to 65 yds *16*. Species shy and secretive, spending most of its time under cover of dense grasses *10,14,18,21*.

Limiting factors: Destruction of habitat since the turn of the century *06,08*. Hyde (1939) noted predation by marsh hawks and snakes. Occasional to common host to cowbirds in local areas *12,13*.

Population parameters: No information.

 


MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Beneficial:

  • Maintaining undisturbed/undeveloped areas
  • Maintaining natural areas and nature preserves
  • Maintaining unique or special habitat features (wetlands, snags, caves, cliffs, talises, etc.
  • Preserving endangered species habitat
  • Preserving sensitive species habitat
  • Performing field survey prior to prescription
  • Controlling land use and human activities
  • Developing/maintaining wetlands
  • Protecting existing wetlands
  • Aquatic habitat management practices other than those included in IFWIS lists (see comments)
  • Planting native vegetation
  • Develop/maintain prairie
  • Plant management practices other than those included in IFWIS list (see comments)
  • Clearcutting forests
  • Providing food and cover for species under consideration
  • Estimating/maintaining nesting and escape cover

Adverse:

  • Draining wetlands
  • Strip mining
  • Mowing

Existing:

  • Performing special survey prior to prescription

Comments on management practices:
Species needs undisturbed fields, won't breed in recently mowed or burned fields *06,11*. Wet areas useful to species *03,08,10,11,12*. Strip mining destructive to habitat *00*. Maintain dense, tall, and wet open grassy areas *03,06,07,10,13,18*. Bowles, et al. (1981) states that "protection of prairie nest sites and maintenance of cover throughout the nesting season" as well as maintaining fields in the "proper stages of succession" are essential for protecting this species. Species is protected by Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act of 1972, the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and the Illinois Wildlife Code of 1971 *06,19,20*.

 


REFERENCES

0. IRISH, J. 1984. ILL. NAT. HIST. SURV., 607 E. PEABODY DR., CHAMPAIGN, ILL. (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. PETERSON, R. 1980. A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS. 4 ED. HOUGHTON-MIFFLIN CO., BOSTON. 384 P.

3. POUGH, R.H. 1951. AUDUBON BIRD GUIDE: SMALL LAND BIRDS. DOUBLEDAY & COMPANY, INC., GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK. 312 PP. + 48 PLS.

4. NICHOLS, L.N. 1944. BIRDS OF AMERICA. PART III, T.G. PEARSON, EDITOR- IN-CHIEF. GARDEN CITY PUBL. COMPANY, INC., GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK. 289 PP.

5. NUTTALL, T. 1919. BIRDS OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, PART I LAND BIRDS. LITTLE, BROWN AND CO., BOSTON. 473 PP.

6. BOWLES, M.L., V.E. DIERSING, J.E. EBINGER AND H.C. SCHULTZ, EDS. 1981. ENDANGERED AND THREATENED VERTEBRATE ANIMALS AND VASCULAR PLANTS OF ILLINOIS. ILLINOIS DEPT. CONSERV. 189 P.

7. GODFREY, W.E. 1966. THE BIRDS OF CANADA. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF CANADA. BULLETIN NO. 203. BIOLOGICAL SERIES NO. 73. 428 PP.

8. HYDE, A.J. 1939. THE LIFE HISTORY OF HENSLOW'S SPARROW, PASSERHERBULUS HENSLOWII (AUDUBON). MUSEUM OF ZOOLOGY, UNIV. OF MICHIGAN. UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN PRESS, ANN ARBOR, MI. PUBL NO. 41. 79 PP.

9. CORY, C.B. 1909. THE BIRDS OF ILLINOIS AND WISCONSIN. FIELD MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY. PUBL 131, ZOOLOGICAL SERIES. VOL. IX. PG. 586.

10. BENT, A.C. CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE BY J.W. GRABER. 1968. LIFE HISTORIES OF NORTH AMERICAN CARDINALS, GROSBEAKS, BUNTING TOWHEES, FINCHES, SPARROWS, AND ALLIES. U.S. NATL. MUS. BULL. NO. 237.

11. BASKETT, T.S., D.A. DARROW, D.L. HALLETT, M.J. ARMBRUSTER, J.A. ELLIS, B.F. SPARROWE, AND P.A. KORTE. 1980. A HANDBOOK FOR TERRESTRIAL HABITAT EVALUATION IN CENTRAL MISSOURI. U.S. DEPT. OF THE INTERIOR, FISH AND WILDL. SERV. RESOURCE PUBLICATION 133. WASHINGTON D.C. 155 PP.

12. ROBINS, J.D. 1971. A STUDY OF HENSLOW'S SPARROW IN MICHIGAN. THE WILSON BULL 83(1):39-48.

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

14. FLANIGAN, A.B. 1975. BANDING OF NESTLING HENSLOW'S SPARROWS. INLAND BIRD BANDING NEWS 47(4):136-139.

15. WILEY, H. AND J. CROFT. 1964. ECOLOGICAL NOTES ON HENSLOW'S SPARROW NEAR LOUISVILLE. KENTUCKY WARBLER. VOL. 40. PP. 39-41.

16. ROBINS, J.D. 1971. DIFFERENTIAL NICHE UTILIZATION IN A GRASSLAND SPARROW. ECOLOGY 52(6):1065-1070.

17. AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGIST' UNION. 1983. CHECKLIST OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. 6TH EDITION. ALLEN PRESS, INC. LAWRENCE, KN. 877 PP.

18. HARRISON, H.H. 1975. A FIELD GUIDE TO BIRDS' NESTS. HOUGHTON-MIFFLIN CO., BOSTON. 257 PP.

19. U.S. FISH AND 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. SPEC. PUBL. FEDERAL REGISTER. GENERAL SERV. ADMIN. OCT. 1.

20. 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. 120 PP.

21. MARTIN, A., H. ZIM AND A. NELSON. 1951. AMERICAN WILDIFE AND PLANTS. MCGRAW-HILL BOOK CO., NEW YORK. 500 PP.

 


 

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