Wednesday 22 May
Le Conte's sparrow (Ammodramus leconteii)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Le Conte's sparrow fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Le Conte's sparrow description
One of the most poorly known of North America’s grassland birds, Le Conte’s sparrow (Ammodramus leconteii) is notoriously difficult to study due to its secretive behaviour and cryptic plumage. This elusive species usually stays hidden in dense grass, skulking about on the ground, and dives into vegetation when disturbed rather than taking flight (2) (3) (4).
Le Conte’s sparrow is a small, chunky bird with short, rounded wings and a broad bill (2). The tail is almost as long as the wings and has extremely narrow and pointed feathers (3). This species has a buffy-orange face and chest, with black streaks along the sides and flanks and occasionally across the chest. The crown has a white stripe, and there is a pinkish patch at the back of the head, streaked with chestnut (2). There is also a bright buff eyebrow stripe, and the plumage is edged with white (3). The juvenile Le Conte’s sparrow is similar to the adult, but is buffier, with less distinct markings (2).Top
Le Conte's sparrow biology
As a result of the shy, elusive nature of Le Conte’s sparrow, very little is known about its biology and behaviour (3). However, it is thought to nest in May and June. The nest consists of a small, open cup of fine grasses, lined with grass and hair, and is placed on or just about the ground (2) (3). Usually, 4 or 5 eggs are laid, and are incubated for around 13 days (3).
Le Conte’s sparrow usually forages on the ground and in low vegetation, where it feeds on a variety of seeds and arthropods. It is thought to maintain territories using calls, which may also be used to attract a mate during the breeding season (3).Top
Le Conte's sparrow range
Le Conte’s sparrow breeds in the prairies and grasslands of the extreme north-central U.S. and central and southern Canada. It also breeds in Ontario and Quebec, where it is patchily distributed (3).
A migratory species, Le Conte’s sparrow spends the winter in the southern U.S. from southern Illinois, central and southern Missouri, south-eastern Kansas, west-central Oklahhoma and west-central Texas, south to the Gulf Coast, and east to western Tennessee and western Florida. It may also winter in the lower Pecos River Valley of south-eastern New Mexico (3).Top
Le Conte's sparrow habitat
Whilst breeding, Le Conte’s sparrow prefers open habitats and marshy meadows consisting of fine grasses and sedges. It may also be found around bogs and in low, damp parts of hayfields.
Within its winter range, Le Conte’s sparrow typically inhabits old fields and prairies with a dense covering of grasses and sedges (3).Top
Le Conte's sparrow status
Le Conte's sparrow is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Le Conte's sparrow threats
Le Conte’s sparrow is an elusive and secretive species that is rarely recorded during surveys, making accurate estimates of its population size difficult to obtain (3). However, its populations are thought to fluctuate, primarily as a result of changes in local environmental conditions (3) (5). For example, in North Dakota, numbers of Le Conte’s sparrow are highest during wet years, while in the northern Great Plains, numbers increased dramatically after an end to the drought conditions of 1990 to 1993 (3).Top
Le Conte's sparrow conservation
The conservation measure most likely to benefit Le Conte’s sparrow is the protection and management of any grassland within its range. This management may involve man-made fire regimes, as this will stimulate the growth of tall grasses while decreasing the amount of woody encroachment, which will increase the nesting habitat of this species. As Le Conte’s sparrow breeds until at least early July, any disturbance should be delayed until mid July (3).Top
Find out more
Find out more about Le Conte’s sparrow:
Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds - Le Conte’s sparrow:
BirdLife International - Le Conte’s sparrow:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- A very diverse phylum (a major grouping of animals) that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
- Cryptic colouration
- Colouration that makes animals difficult to detect against their background. The colouration may provide camouflage against a background or break up the outline of the body. Both can occur in a single animal, and tend to reduce predation.
- To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- An area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a group.
IUCN Red List (July, 2011)
Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds - Le Conte’s sparrow (July, 2011)
Lowther, P.E. (2005) Le Conte’s sparrow (Ammodramus leconteii). In: Poole, A. (Ed.). The Birds of North America Online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca. Available at:
U.S. Geological Survey - Le Conte's Sparrow: Ephemeral Jewel of the Northern Great Plains (July, 2011)
BirdLife International (July, 2011)
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.