Grasshopper Sparrow

Species Name: Ammodramus savannarum

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Species Distribution in Massachusetts

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Federal Rank: None

Massachusetts State Rank: Threatened

Habitat Description

Sandplain grasslands, pastures, hayfields and airfields characterized by bunch grasses (rather than sod-forming grasses). It is also found in open knolls, sandplains within Pine Barrens and coastal heathlands. It requires a patchy grassland habitat with bare ground and bunch grasses such as poverty grass (Danthonia spicata), bluestem (Andropogon spp.) and fescue (Fescue spp.). Preferred habitat is characterized by relatively low stem densities and limited accumulation of ground litter. This species is generally absent from fields with over 35% cover in shrubs. Bare ground is especially important, as Grasshopper Sparrows behave much like field mice in their habit of running along the ground to escape predators and to forage for invertebrates.

Threats to Survival

Loss of appropriate habitat to land development, changes in agricultural practices (early harvesting and fewer fallow fields), and natural succession (abandoned fields growing up to shrubs and woods) appears to be the primary factor in its decline. Openings created by forest fires once provided habitat but these are now rare.

Actions Recommended to Ensure Survival

Later harvesting of crops, planting more fallow fields, creating more patches of bare ground through management of fire to maintain a field of less than 35% shrub cover. Providing bare ground is essential to providing proper habitat for the grasshopper sparrow.