Baird's sparrow

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Baird's sparrow
Baird's Sparrow (25865756586) (cropped).jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae
Genus: Ammodramus
Species: A. bairdii
Binomial name
Ammodramus bairdii
(Audubon, 1844)

Baird's sparrow (Ammodramus bairdii) is a species of North American birds in the family Emberizidae of order Passeriformes. It is a migratory bird native to the United States, Canada, and Mexico.


The Baird's sparrow can be identified as a small brown streaked sparrow. Their faces are a yellow-brown color featuring subtle black markings. These birds have a narrow band of brown streaks on their chests. This species can be distinguished from others by its unique broad ochre central crown stripe. Juveniles exhibit similar coloration but often have more streaking. Adult size is comparable for both males and females, no sexual dimorphism is exhibited. Adults are generally about 12 cm and weigh 17-21 g; their wingspan is usually around 23 cm.[2]

They are larger than Le Conte's sparrow and do not exhibit orange coloration on their faces. They exhibit very similar coloration and patterning to Henslow's sparrow but do not have green coloration on their faces. The Savannah sparrow is more heavily streaked and has an extra white marking on its head.[2]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The Baird's sparrow migrates from its summer breeding habitat, the tall grass prairies of north central United States and South Central Canada, to spend winters in northern Mexico and the southern tip of the United States near Texas.[2] Due to this migratory behavior, they may be spotted all across the Midwest portion of the United States during migratory seasons, but most frequently can be found in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, and Canada during the summer.

This species of sparrow resides in grassland habitats. These birds rely on the (now diminishing) tallgrass prairies, mixed grass prairies, and moister fescue prairies of northern United States and southern Canada.[2] The dwindling status of this habitat puts many animals whose lifestyles rely on these ecosystems in peril.[3] Land featuring woody vegetation and cultivated land is generally not a suitable environment for Baird's sparrows to thrive in.

Diet habits[edit]

Baird's sparrow feed on the ground, picking up insects and grass seeds.

Conservation status and threats[edit]

There is some concern about the conservation status of Baird's sparrows; their numbers are reduced compared to historic numbers. This species is listed under the IUCN Red List under the category of "least concern".[2] Maintaining the original habitat is important for this species because artificial habitat recreation is not suitable for these birds. Fragmentation can lead to adverse conditions for Baird's sparrows, including increased nest parasitism.[4]

Reproduction/life cycle[edit]

Baird's sparrows nest on the ground in either depressions or tufts of grass. These nests are usually made out of grass and consist of two layers, with finer material on the inside.[5] These birds nest in small loose colonies. A normal clutch size is usually two to six white-gray eggs with brown spots.[4] These birds are altricial, and rely on parental care for survival after hatching.

Etymology of the name[edit]

The Baird's sparrow was named after the American naturalist Spencer Fullerton Baird.[1]

Historical fact[edit]

The Baird's sparrow was first described in North Dakota in 1843 by John James Audubon and another record of this species was not made for 29 years following its discovery.[5]

Fun facts[edit]

Breeding populations of Baird's sparrow fluctuate from year to year. This is most likely the result of a variable environment including factors like wildfires, drought, and the movement of bison herds.[5] When confronted with danger or a potential predator, Baird's sparrows may evade their foes by running on foot rather than flying away.[5]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Ammodramus bairdii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Baird’s Sparrow." 2014. Accessed May 1.
  3. ^ Madden, E. M.; Murphy, R. K.; Hansen, A. J.; Murray, L. (2000). "Models for Guiding Management of Prairie Bird Habitat in Northwestern North Dakota" (PDF). American Midland Naturalist. 144 (2): 377–92. doi:10.1674/0003-0031(2000)144[0377:MFGMOP]2.0.CO;2. 
  4. ^ a b Davis, S. K.; Sealy, S. G. (1998). "Nesting Biology of the Baird's Sparrow in Southwestern Manitoba". Wilson Bulletin. 110 (2): 262–70. 
  5. ^ a b c d Green, M. T., P. E. Lowther, S. L. Jones, S. K. Davis, and B. C. Dale. 2002. Baird's Sparrow (Ammodramus bairdii). In The Birds of North America, No. 638 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Further reading[edit]


  • Green, M. T., P. E. Lowther, S. L. Jones, S. K. Davis, and B. C. Dale. 2002. Baird’s Sparrow (Ammodramus bairdii). In The Birds of North America, No. 638 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.


  • Anonymous (1993). Canadian Baird's sparrow recovery plan. Ottawa: Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife Committee, 1993. vii, 28 p. (36 pages)
  • De Smet KD. (1991). Manitoba's threatened and endangered grassland birds project: 1990 update. Winnipeg: Manitoba Natural Resources, Wildlife Branch, 1991. iv, 47 p. (53 pages).
  • De Smet KD. (1992). Manitoba's threatened and endangered grassland birds: 1991 update and five year summary. Winnipeg: Manitoba Natural Resources, Wildlife Branch, 1992. vi, 77 p. (85 pages)
  • De Smet KD & Miller WS. (1989). Status report on the Baird's sparrow, Ammodramus bairdii, in Canada. Ottawa: Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, 1989. ii, 28 p. (34 pages).


  • Ahlering MA. PhD (2005). Settlement cues and resource use by Grasshopper Sparrows and Baird's Sparrows in the Upper Great Plains. University of Missouri - Columbia, United States, Missouri.
  • Davis SK. PhD (2003). Habitat selection and demography of mixed-grass prairie songbirds in a fragmented landscape. The University of Regina (Canada), Canada.
  • Gamble K. MS (2005). Habitat use in Baird's and grasshopper sparrows. University of Missouri - Columbia, United States, Missouri.
  • Green MT. PhD (1992). Adaptations of Baird's sparrows (Ammodramus bairdii) to grasslands: Acoustic communication and nomadism. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, United States, North Carolina.
  • Klippenstine DR. MSc (2005). Can egg mimicry by Brown-headed Cowbirds explain the acceptance of brood parasitism by grassland passerines?. University of Manitoba (Canada), Canada.
  • Mahon CL. MSc (1995). Habitat selection and detectability of Baird's sparrows in southwestern Alberta. University of Alberta (Canada), Canada.


  • Ahlering, MA; Johnson, DH; Faaborg, J (2006). "Conspecific attraction in a grassland bird, the Baird's Sparrow". Journal of Field Ornithology. 77 (4): 365–371. doi:10.1111/j.1557-9263.2006.00066.x. 
  • Bolduc, D (1969). "Bairds Sparrow Occurrence Clay County Minnesota USA". Loon. 41 (1). 
  • Dale, BC; Martin, PA; Taylor, PS (1997). "Effects of hay management on grassland songbirds in Saskatchewan". Wildlife Society Bulletin. 25 (3): 616–626. 
  • Davis, SK (2003). "Nesting ecology of mixed-grass prairie songbirds in southern Saskatchewan". Wilson Bulletin. 115 (2): 119–130. doi:10.1676/02-138. 
  • Davis, SK (2004). "Area sensitivity in grassland passerines: Effects of patch size, patch shape, and vegetation structure on bird abundance and occurrence in southern Saskatchewan". Auk. 121 (4): 1130–1145. doi:10.2307/4090481. JSTOR 4090481. 
  • Davis, SK (2005). "Nest-site selection patterns and the influence of vegetation on nest survival of mixed-grass prairie passerines". Condor. 107 (3): 605–616. doi:10.1650/0010-5422(2005)107[0605:nspati];2. 
  • Davis, SK; Brigham, RM; Shaffer, TL; James, PC (2006). "Mixed-grass prairie passerines exhibit weak and variable responses to patch size". Auk. 123 (3): 807–821. doi:10.1642/0004-8038(2006)123[807:mppewa];2. 
  • Davis, SK; Duncan, DC; Skeel, M (1999). "Distribution and habitat associations of three endemic grassland songbirds in southern Saskatchewan". Wilson Bulletin. 111 (3): 389–396. 
  • Davis, SK; Duncan, DC; Skeel, MA (1996). "The Baird's Sparrow: Status resolved". Blue Jay. 54 (4): 185–191. 
  • Davis, SK; Sealy, SG (1998). "Nesting biology of the Baird's sparrow in southwestern Manitoba". Wilson Bulletin. 110 (2): 262–270. 
  • Dieni, JS; Jones, SL (2003). "Grassland songbird nest site selection patterns in northcentral Montana". Wilson Bulletin. 115 (4): 388–396. doi:10.1676/03-055. 
  • Gordon, CE (2000). "Movement patterns of wintering grassland sparrows in Arizona". Auk. 117 (3): 748–759. doi:10.1642/0004-8038(2000)117[0748:mpowgs];2. 
  • Johnson, DH; Igl, LD (2001). "Area requirements of grassland birds: A regional perspective". Auk. 118 (1): 24–34. doi:10.2307/4089756. 
  • Kyllingstad, H (1977). "Bairds Sparrow Singing at Rothsay". Loon. 49 (2). 
  • Madden, EM; Hansen, AJ; Murphy, RK (1999). "Influence of prescribed fire history on habitat and abundance of passerine birds in northern mixed-grass prairie". Canadian Field Naturalist. 113 (4): 627–640. 
  • Madden, EM; Murphy, RK; Hansen, AJ; Murray, L (2000). "Models for guiding management of prairie bird habitat in northwestern North Dakota". American Midland Naturalist. 144 (2): 377–392. doi:10.1674/0003-0031(2000)144[0377:mfgmop];2. 
  • Maher, WJ (1979). "Nestling Diets of Prairie Passerine Birds at Matador Saskatchewan Canada". Ibis. 121 (4): 437–452. 
  • Marks, JS; Nordhagen, T (2005). "Type locality of Ammodramus bairdii (Audubon)". Auk. 122 (1): 349–350. 
  • Martin, PA; Forsyth, DJ (2003). "Occurrence and productivity of songbirds in prairie farmland under conventional versus minimum tillage regimes". Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment. 96 (1–3): 107–117. doi:10.1016/s0167-8809(02)00234-7. 
  • Martin, PA; Johnson, DL; Forsyth, DJ; Hill, BD (2000). "Effects of two grasshopper control insecticides on food resources and reproductive success of two species of grassland songbirds". Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry. 19 (12): 2987–2996. doi:10.1002/etc.5620191220. 
  • Pylypec, B (1991). "Impacts of Fire on Bird Populations in a Fescue Prairie". Canadian Field Naturalist. 105 (3): 346–349. 
  • Sutter, GC; Brigham, RM (1998). "Avifaunal and habitat changes resulting from conversion of native prairie to crested wheat grass: Patterns at songbird community and species levels". Canadian Journal of Zoology. 76 (5): 869–875. doi:10.1139/z98-018. 
  • Sutter, GC; Troupe, T; Forbes, M (1995). "Abundance of Baird's sparrows, Ammodramus bairdii, in native prairie and introduced vegetation". Ecoscience. 2 (4): 344–348. 
  • Voelker, G (2004). "Can migrants do it faster? Accelerated molt of Baird's Sparrows and further insights into southwestern molting grounds". Condor. 106 (4): 910–914. doi:10.1650/7500. 
  • Wilson, SD; Belcher, JW (1989). "Plant and Bird Communities of Native Prairie and Introduced Eurasian Vegetation in Manitoba Canada". Conservation Biology. 3 (1): 39–44. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.1989.tb00222.x. 

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