Plants and Animals

Ammodramus savannarum Grasshopper sparrow

species photo
species photo
Aaron Kortenhoven

Key Characteristics

The Grasshopper sparrow is a small sparrow 4-5 inches (10.3-13 cm) in length, with an unmarked buffy breast and white belly and a flat head with a white stripe running from the bill to the back of the head. This secretive bird is easily identified from a distance by its high pitch insectlike buzzy song "tik-tuk tikeeeeeeeeeeez". From long distances or on windy days the first syllable, "tik", may not be heard.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: S4 - Apparently secure


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alger 1 2006
Allegan 2 2022
Alpena 1 2006
Antrim 1 2005
Barry 4 2014
Benzie 2 2006
Berrien 3 2007
Branch 1 2006
Calhoun 3 2007
Cass 1 2015
Charlevoix 1 2007
Cheboygan 1 2005
Chippewa 2 2007
Clare 1 2004
Crawford 1 2023
Dickinson 1 2005
Eaton 3 2012
Emmet 2 2007
Grand Traverse 3 2009
Gratiot 1 2022
Huron 2 2022
Ingham 5 2014
Ionia 1 2007
Iosco 3 2016
Isabella 7 2007
Jackson 4 2016
Kalamazoo 7 2014
Kent 2 2006
Lake 1 2007
Lapeer 1 2005
Leelanau 6 2009
Lenawee 1 2015
Livingston 1 2005
Manistee 3 2008
Mason 2 2008
Mecosta 4 2020
Missaukee 1 2005
Monroe 6 2007
Montcalm 7 2015
Muskegon 1 2007
Newaygo 1 2004
Oakland 4 2007
Oceana 1 2005
Ontonagon 3 2008
Osceola 2 2007
Oscoda 2 2014
Otsego 1 2007
Saginaw 1 2005
Sanilac 1 2006
Schoolcraft 1 2005
St. Clair 1 2011
St. Joseph 1 2006
Tuscola 4 2006
Van Buren 3 2006
Washtenaw 3 2008
Wayne 6 2008
Wexford 3 2008

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Grasshopper sparrows may be found in a wide variety of grasslands, cultivated fields, hayfields, and old fields and seem to prefer drier sites as long as there is tall dense grassy vegetation.

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

Do not mow or clear brush during the breeding season from late April through early August. Grasshopper sparrows will tolerate some shrub encroachment but large patches should be controlled to maintain the grass dominated habitat they require. Prescribed burning is a method that may be used to setback succession to woody vegetation but a rotation should be established to create a mosaic of diverse grassland habitat. As with mowing or brush clearing, all vegetation management activities should be conducted in the fall after most of the birds have begun migrating south. Herbicide or insecticide applications should also be avoided during the nesting season.

Active Period

Migration from fourth week of April to first week of May

Migration from first week of September to fourth week of October

Nesting from first week of May to fourth week of July

Survey Methods

Surveys may be conducted by walking a transect through suitable habitat during the breeding season and listening for singing males. Some birds may also be flushed by the surveyor walking through the field or observed perched atop occasional shrubs or fenceposts. If identification is questionable playback calls may be used to bring males in closer or out of the grass into an area where they may be observed more clearly.

Transects, visual, listen for calls

Survey Period: From first week of May to fourth week of June

Time of Day: Morning (sunrise)


Survey References

  • Bibby, C.J., N.D. Burgess, and D.A. Hill. 1992. Bird Census Techniques. Academic Press, New York.

Technical References

  • Rising, J.D. 1996. A Guide to the Identification and Natural History of the Sparrows of the United States and Canada. Academic Press. 365pp.