BIRD OF THE WEEK: SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ammodramus bairdii
POPULATION: Approximately 2 million
HABITAT: Breeds in North American native mixed-grass and short-grass prairies. Winters in grasslands, mostly in Mexico.
The Baird's Sparrow was first noted by John James Audubon in 1843. The species was named for Spencer Baird, a young man mentored by Audubon who later became a prominent ornithologist himself. The species was not recorded again for almost 30 years — unsurprising, since it's extremely secretive.
A grassland bird, this sparrow shares its wintering habitat with the Long-billed Curlew, Chestnut-collared Longspur, and Worthen's Sparrow, an Alliance for Zero Extinction-listed species found only in Mexico.
The chief threat to the Baird's Sparrow is habitat loss. The vast majority of native grassland has disappeared due to extensive agriculture, overgrazing, fire suppression, and invasive plants.
In addition, fragmentation of native prairie grasslands makes this birds' nests more vulnerable to brood parasites like Brown-headed Cowbirds and predation.
Baird's Sparrows are partially nomadic, with breeding populations shifting dramatically among locations from year to year. This tendency probably evolved in response to the effects of drought, fire, and the movements of bison herds over the prairie, which affected the condition and successional state of the land.
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This species often eludes predators (and human watchers) by running on the ground through the grass, rather than flying away. Baird's Sparrows nest on the ground, where they also feeds, picking up insects and grass seeds.
ABC works with partners on both the species' breeding and wintering grounds to save and restore native grasslands. In North America, we cooperate with farmers, ranchers, and government agencies to promote land management practices helpful to breeding Baird's Sparrows and other grassland birds.
In Mexico, our local partner Pronatura Noreste is making strides to restore critical wintering habitat for the species, such as El Tokio Grassland Priority Conservation Area.
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