Henslow's Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii)

Season: late May to early July

Places to go: Henslow’s often nest in old hay fields at Rock Cut State Park. Start at the parking area for equestrian camping on the north side of Hart Road. Walk out to Hart Road and follow it a short distance west to the first equestrian trail on the left (south). This trail cuts through a dip in brushy area and then emerges in a complex of old hay fields. Also, walk the equestrian trails northwest from that same parking area to the old fields just east of Forest Hills Road. Another good spot is in the restored prairie east of the soccer field at Keiselburg Forest Preserve.

Tips for finding and identifying: In early mornings and during good weather territorial sparrows sit up on weed or grass stems and sing. Their song is quiet and easily missed against the background of other singing birds and ambient noise. Grasshopper Sparrows often nest in the same habitat as Henslow’s. The two species appear quite similar so it is important to pay attention to their songs. With a little experience the buzzy trill of the Grasshopper Sparrow is easily distinguished from the dry hiccup of the Henslow’s Sparrow.

Special cautions: At one time Henslow’s Sparrow may have been the most abundant nesting bird in Illinois. These birds have lost the vast majority of their nesting habitat in the last century and are reduced to a few small remnant populations. They need large stands of relatively mature grassland for nesting. Nests are placed on the ground and are vulnerable to ground predators and trampling. Please observe Henslow’s Sparrows from the pathways and do not attempt to locate nests.

Submitted by Barbara Williams

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