Birds of the Grasses.

Henslow’s Sparrow near Sligo, PA

If you read my last post you saw that I really love focusing on the warblers in the spring and summer, but another favorite of mine are the grassland species. These are birds that inhabit grasslands of vast open meadows and often brushy reclaimed strip mine areas. Birding this kinds of habitat you can rack up your vast array of sparrow species as well as lots of other cool birds. Here are some of my favorite birds that love to call the high grasses their home.

The Savannah Sparrow is a handsome bird that resembles closely a Song Sparrow but they have thinner, more crisp stripes on their underside and most have a wash of yellow above the eye.

The Grasshopper Sparrow is one of the less striped of the sparrow species but still a very dapper bird with their buffy colored chest and beautiful markings on the back. Like many of the sparrows they have a very distinct song which goes: “titi-zeeeeeeee” and probably could easily be confused with an insect sound.

The Henslow’s Sparrow might be my favorite grassland sparrow. They are quite rare for most of my home state in PA but they can be found in good abundance at certain spots. A very beautiful bird and another that sound more like an insect rather than a bird with their quick “tis-lick” call.

This is the same bird singing his heart out.

The Clay-colored Sparrow is the rarest breeding sparrow in my home state and there are only a few spots (that I know of) throughout the state where they can be found breeding. Needless to say they are a thrill to find. They make a very long drawn out “buzzzzzz, buzzzzz” call.

Prairie Warblers can also be found in grassland habitat but are often found in more brushy areas with small stands of trees. I always seem to have great luck getting these beauties to pose for me.

Dickcissels are a very irregular visitor to Pennsylvania but every so many years some will show up. This summer many have been found throughout the state and I was fortunate to see this one outside of Derry, PA recently.

The Eastern Meadowlark is a fairly abundant grassland bird but since they always stay in the high grass, your best chance to see them is when they take flight or perch on a fence post or wire.

The Bobolink may be the most unique looking of the grassland birds. They have been described as wearing a tuxedo but in reverse as their back side has lots of white marking while they are solid black on the front. Amazing singers of a rich, electrical sounding song.

The Eastern Kingbird, a type of flycatcher is a common bird of grasslands but can be found in many open habitats and they really love being near ponds or lakes.

The Upland Sandpiper is a type of shorebird, however they are never found anywhere near any shores but rather inhabit high grassy Meadows. A bird that unfortunately has greatly declined in population so it is always a delight to find.

Last but definitely not least is the mighty Northern Harrier. This bird of prey keeps all the other grassland birds on their toes and is always on the lookout to grab one for its next tasty meal. Most Harriers go north to breed but some can be found throughout the state where they spend the summer and breed.

All of these photos were taken this spring, except for the Upland Sandpiper which I got several years ago. My favorite place to catch the grassland birds are the areas around Sligo, Pa which includes: Piney Tract (Mt. Zion Rd.), Mt. Airy and the Curllsville Strips.

 

Author: Steve

Steve Gosser is a nature and birding enthusiast from Western Pennsylvania who loves to capture the sights he encounters with his camera. Visit his gallery site at www.gosserphotos.com

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