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Henslow's Sparrow (Centronyx henslowii)

Photo Gallery

Henslow's Sparrow

Centronyx henslowii

Family Passerellidae

New World Sparrows

Length:  5 in

Wing span:  6.5 in

Weight:  13 g


The song of the Henslow's Sparrow is a dry, insect-like, hiccup 'tic lick'. Peterson refers to the song as a poor vocal effort, and Sibley calls it feeble.  The call is a very high pitched, sharp 'tsk'. When you look at the spectrograph of the alarm call, notice that the call is in the range of 8-10 k which is a very high frequency.  Consequently, as you listen to the recording the call note is barely audible.



(Wistrand recording from Spectrographs generated in Audacity)

HESP _SongD L Batema
00:00 / 00:43
HESP_alarm callMatt Wistrand
00:00 / 00:48
HESP_alarm call_Wistrand.jpg


Adult: Sexes are similar. A small, short-tailed bird with a flat head and large pale bill. Olive-green wash on head contrasts with rich rusty brown back and wings. Note the double mustache stripes and spots behind the ear. Breast, sides and flanks are dark-streaked pale buff. White eye ring is present.

Immature:  Juvenile is paler, washed buff-brown and has fewer streaks on underparts.

In flight:  Alternates several rapid wing beats with wings pulled to sides. Weak fluttering flight with jerking of tail, low over vegetation.



Henslow's Sparrows are secretive birds of grasslands.  Breeds in fields and meadows, often in low-lying or damp areas, with tall grass, standing dead weeds, and scattered shrubs.  Sometimes breed in old pastures or hayfields.  Has done well in reclaimed strip-mine lands. Winters in various kinds of weedy fields.

Foods & Foraging

Mostly consume insects and seeds. Summer diet includes crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, spiders, snails.  Seeds, from grasses, sedges, and weeds, an important part of the diet both in summer and winter.

Foraging on the ground.  Individuals forage alone, not associating with its own kind or other sparrows.

Range Map

Henslow's sparrow map.jpg

Breeds locally from Minnesota, southern Ontario, and central New York south to Kansas, Illinois, Pennsylvania.  Winters in Gulf Coast States and along the Atlantic Coast to South Carolina.

Local Distribution


Birds begin to arrive in our area toward the beginning of April and most depart in late August, with a few leaving later.

Locations to find the Henslow's Sparrow in our area include: Bluegrass FWA, Lynnville-Squaw Creek IBA, Columbia Mine.

Click here to see how Henslow's Sparrow range could be reshaped due to climate change.

Arrival & Departure

Henslow's Sparrow copy.jpg

Conservation Status

The global population of Henslow's Sparrow is between 79,000 (American Bird Conservancy) and 410,000 (Partners-In-Flight) individuals.  Both organizations have listed the Henslow's Sparrow as a species of concern due to its declining populations.  Additionally, Canada lists the sparrow as endangered, as do seven U.S. states.  Indiana is one of the seven states that list Henslow's Sparrow as endangered.  Nine other states list it as threatened or a species of special concern.  

Reasons for declining populations are due to loss of breeding habitat.  Fire suppression, conversation of pasture to agricultural land, wetland drainage, and urbanization have resulted in loss of habitat.  Henslow's Sparrow is also vulnerable to pesticide exposure.

Although the habitat requirements of Henslow's Sparrow are poorly known, the birds have responded favorably to the federal Conservation Reserve Program.  Increase in nesting habitat as a result of this program has allowed for some stabilization of the population in places where the program exists. It is also a major reason why the IUCN upgraded the listing of Henslow's Sparrow from Near Threatened (NT) to Least Concern (LC).

Henslow's Sparrow:  Least Concern


Least Concern category includes birds that are not at risk of being threatened or endangered at this time.

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