Share your observations

Share your observations of plants or non-game animals with the Natural Heritage Inventory

Rare animals
Find rare and non-game animals.
Rare plants
Learn about plants on the Natural Heritage Working List.
Rare lichens
Discover Wisconsin's lichens.
Natural communities
Explore Wisconsin's natural communities.
Other features
Discover unique resources.
Eagle license plate

Help care for rare plants and animals by ordering an Endangered Resources plate.

Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist
For information on Wisconsin's rare invertebrates, contact:
Jay Watson
Conservation Biologist

Henslow's Sparrow (Centronyx henslowii)



Henslow's Sparrow (Centronyx henslowii), listed as Threatened in Wisconsin, prefers old fields, open grasslands, wet meadows, unmowed highway rights-of-way, undisturbed pastures, Timothy hay fields, and fallow land grown up to tall weeds. The required avoidance period is May 5 - August 10.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Henslow's Sparrow (Centronyx henslowii). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Centronyx henslowii in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusTHR
Federal Status in WisconsinSOC
State RankS2S3B
Global RankG4
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Note: a species guidance document is not available at this time. Information below was compiled from publication ER-091.

Identification: This small, short-tailed bird is about 5" in length. The head is flat, olive-colored and striped, the wings are reddish, and the bill is large and pale. Best identified by its song, a short, quiet "se-lick" accented on the second syllable.

Habitat: Undisturbed pastures and meadows, timothy hayfields, and uncultivated fields, generally preferring mesic or wet habitats with relatively tall and dense, but also somewhat sparse and patchy vegetation.

State Distribution: Uncommon migrant south and central; rare migrant north. Uncommon summer resident south and central; rare summer resident north. Normal summer range covers about four-fifths of the state, with rare occurrences in northern counties. Not a common resident anywhere in state. A map outlining Pre-1977 and 1997 to Present Distribution is available.

Diet: Primary food is insects; also eats spiders, and seeds of grasses and weeds. Young are fed only insects.

Clutch: 3-5 cream white eggs; laid from late April through late July.

Incubation: 11 days. Fledging period: 9-10 days.

Nest: Deep cup of grasses, built at the base of a thick clump of grass; 2-3 inches off the ground. Nest in loose colonies or singly.

Management Guidelines: The U.S. population of this uncommon and locally distributed species has declined more than 68% from 1966-1991. The Wisconsin population has also declined over that period, and it has dropped an average of 5% per year from 1982-1991. This species is a habitat specialist that has suffered from the loss of uncultivated fields with tall and dense vegetation. Henslow's sparrow ranked highest in the Wisconsin Grassland Bird Study's ranking of birds of management and conservation concern in the state. The control of woody vegetation is critical on public or idle lands, but this species will tolerate some woody vegetation. Also, because this species requires dense litter layers, it will benefit directly from management that promotes longer burning rotations.



Henslow's Sparrow

Due to the statewide loss of prairie, the Henslow's Sparrow, is one of many native grassland birds that is largely dependent on surrogate grasslands for breeding habitat.

Photo © Tom Schultz.

Henslow's Sparrow

Photo © Tom Schultz.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Henslow's Sparrow. Only natural communities for which Henslow's Sparrow is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Henslow's Sparrow. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Henslow's Sparrow occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

Back to Top

Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

Back to Top

Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

Back to Top

Last revised: Thursday, December 22, 2022