Ammodramus henslowii


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Ammodramus henslowii
Species Authority: (Audubon, 1829)
Common Name(s):
English Henslow's Sparrow

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Symes, A. & Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Rosenberg, K. & Wells, J.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Harding, M., Isherwood, I., Khwaja, N., Wege, D.
This species has declined significantly over the last three decades owing to the loss and degradation of its grassland habitats. Although recent population trends are unclear, it is precautionarily listed as Near Threatened as a result of suspected moderately rapid population declines. Nevertheless, further information on the apparently positive trends observed since the establishment of the Conservation Reserve Programme may in due course lead to its reclassification as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Ammodramus henslowii breeds in the eastern U.S.A., from Minnesota (primarily in the south-east) east to southern Ontario and New York, and extending south-west to north-east Oklahoma, and south-east to north-western Kentucky and West Virginia. Isolated breeding populations also exist in north-east Virginia and north-east North Carolina. It is extirpated or a rare breeder in the north-east U.S. states, from Vermont south to Delaware. It winters in coastal states from south-east North Carolina south to Florida (except for the southern tip) and west to eastern Texas (AOU 1983, Sibley and Monroe 1990). It was once common in unploughed, periodically burnt tall-grass prairie, which originally stretched from Illinois west to Kansas and Nebraska (Rising 1996), but these populations have declined over the last three decades, with the greatest declines being in the northern and eastern portions of the range (AOU 1983). Southern populations, however, have tended to increase (Rising 1996), apparently in association with the creation of undisturbed grassland habitat by the Conservation Reserve Program, and the current population is estimated to be 79,000 individuals (Rich et al. 2003).

Canada; United States
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Rich et al. (2003).

Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: During the breeding season, the species is typically found in grassland with tall and dense grass, dead trees and thick leaf-litter. On their wintering grounds, though, birds prefer recently burned areas, with low densities of litter and near-ground vegetation. They are often associated with longleaf pine Pinus palustris savanna at this time, but also occur in saline soil barrens (Holimon et al. 2008). Mowed fields are generally avoided, as are fields with a lot of woody vegetation (Rising 1996, Holimon et al. 2008).

Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Wetland draining and destruction of grassland habitat through fire suppression, conversion to agriculture or pine plantations and earlier and more frequent cutting of hayfields (Rising 1996, Federal Register 1998, Pruitt 1996) all represent threats, and in combination they have caused population declines.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
The species is monitored within the North American Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count. It is listed as an Endangered species in Canada, and within its U.S. breeding range is considered Endangered in seven states, Threatened in five, and of Special Concern in four. Some grassland conservation activities will be undertaken as part of the national Partners in Flight bird conservation efforts. The Conservation Reserves Programme, while not specifically intended to benefit this species, has provided a large area of undisturbed grassland habitat, and Henslow's Sparrow has colonised these fields in many areas. Creation of large areas of undisturbed grasslands through this programme appears to have been responsible for recent reversal of long-term population declines.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to monitor population trends and determine its responses to grassland management regimes.

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Ammodramus henslowii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 04 September 2015.
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