Winter Sparrows

Winter Sparrow Back Shot

Henslow’s Sparrow

The southeastern U.S. supports a number of migratory species that breed far to the north and spend the winter in our pine-grassland savannas. Included in this group are species such as Grasshopper and Henslow’s Sparrows and Sedge Wrens that are undergoing steep population declines on their breeding grounds.

Sparrow Roundup

For the past three years, we have used flush netting techniques to survey pine forests in the Red Hills for wintering sparrows. The technique involves dragging a rope through the woods to flush sparrows lurking in the grass. Once flushed, a mist net is set up quickly and an attempt to net the bird is made. We also use the popular “sparrow round-up” method to sample some areas. Here, a long array of mist nets is set up and 5-10 people help to “herd” sparrows into the nets.

Lincoln Sparrow

Lincoln Sparrow

Henslow’s Sparrows are one of the most common species netted over the years (n = 45). This species is found in mesophytic areas throughout the region, but it reaches highest abundances in forested areas where pine basal area is ≤ 40 ft²/ac as well as open glades and power lines. Individuals move into the area in the first couple of weeks in November and often arrive with a mass that is 1-2 g less than the average recorded later (ca. 12 g). Individuals stay within the same area for most of the winter, but year-to-year site fidelity seems less firmly established. We have not had a single recapture of this species even though we are netting in the same 10 areas each winter.

The Grasshopper Sparrow is observed regularly in fields in our region but is rare in our mature pinewoods. We’ve netted only two individuals thus far, which is the same number of Lincoln Sparrows captured.

Winter Sparrow Sponsors