The grasshopper sparrow is a grassland bird. Grasshopper sparrows prefer prairies with a few shrubs that they use for perching. They do not like prairies that have been over-grazed or areas that have too many shrubs. Prescribed fire can be used to keep the woody shrubs from encroaching into the prairie. Grasshopper sparrows have a short tail and proportionally large, flat head. Its back is patterned with gray and light brown feathers. It is a relatively small bird.
They run or walk along the ground when foraging. They are a very secretive bird, they will fly a short distance when flushed and then drop back down into the grass out of site. They usually stay out of site unless they are singing. When they sing they perch on a weed stalk, shrub or fence and sing their buzzing song. Their song sounds like the buzz of a grasshopper.
Seeds and insects are part of their diet year round. However, their winter diet consists of mostly seeds and grains. Their summer diet consists of mostly insects.
Male grasshopper sparrows sing from perches to defend their territory and advertise for a mate. Females arrive on the breeding grounds a few days after the males.
They are ground nesting birds, and make a well-hidden nest usually placed in a slight depression with the rim of the nest at ground level. The nest is usually partly domed with grass woven into the overhanging vegetation. The females incubate the 4 to 5 eggs for 11 to 13 days. Both parents help feed the young, who leave the nest after 8 to 9 days. The young are not yet able to fly when they leave their nests. The parents continue to provide care for an additional 4 to 19 days.
The grasshopper sparrow population declines when native prairies are converted to crop fields, grasslands are improperly grazed, or if trees invade the grasslands.