Bachman's sparrow
Aimophila aestivalis
ITIS Species Code:   179386         NatureServ Element Code:   ABPBX91050
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
Southern Blue Ridge:  25 Southern Piedmont:  n/a South Atl. Coastal Plain:  27
Land Unit

US Fish & Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
US National Park Service
US Department of Defense
NC State Parks
NC University System
NC Wildlife Res. Com.
NC Forest Service
NC Div. of Coastal Mgmt.
Local Governments
Non-Governmental Org.
Other Public Lands
Private Lands

GAP Status 1-2
All Protected Lands




% of Dist. on
Prot. Lands

0.3 %
1.2 %
67.8 %
< 0.1 %
1.0 %
< 0.1 %
25.2 %
3.0 %
0.0 %
1.1 %
1.1 %
0.0 %
0.0 %

2.5 %
% of Dist. on
All Lands

< 0.1 %
0.3 %
15.7 %
< 0.1 %
0.2 %
< 0.1 %
6.0 %
0.7 %
0.0 %
< 0.1 %
0.3 %
0.0 %
76.8 %

0.6 %
Breeds only in small specific areas of the coastal plain from Croatan National Forest south (Fussell 1994) and in some areas of the piedmont (Potter et al. 1980).

Requires dry uplands with many grasses and forbs, and some trees and shrubs. In the piedmont, breeds in tall grassy fields with saplings scattered throughout (Potter et al. 1980); in the coastal plain, breeds in mostly open pine forests with thick grass; reports of the amount of shrubby understory vary (Fussell 1994, Potter et al. 1980, Rising and Beadle 1996). Can also occur in oak-palmetto scrub (Rising and Beadle 1996).


Habitat specialist. Historically, found in mature to old growth southern pine woodland subject to frequent growing-season fires; a fugitive species, breeding wherever fires created suitable conditions. Requires well-developed grass and herb layer with limited shrub and hardwood midstory components. Ideal habitat was originally the extensive longleaf pine woodlands of the south. Able to colonize recent clearcuts and early seral stages of old field succession but such habitat remains suitable only for a short time. Habitats include dry open pine (southern states) or oak woods (e.g., western portion of range) with an undercover of grasses and shrubs, hillsides with patchy brushy areas, overgrown fields with thickets and brambles, grassy orchards, and large clear-cuts (usually at least 20 ha in Virginia). In the southeastern U.S., Coastal Plain breeding habitat usually is open pine woods with thick cover of grasses or saw palmetto; in the Piedmont, mainly in overgrown fields with scattered saplings, occasionally in open woods with thick grass cover (Hamel 1992). Very occasionally breeds along the edges of wheat or corn fields (Blincoe 1921, Graber and Graber 1963, Mengel 1965).

In South Carolina, higher densities were recorded in mature (more than 80 years old) pine stands than in young stands (Dunning and Watts 1990).

In northwestern Florida, inhabited a longleaf pine stand during the first three years after annual spring fires were discontinued; canopy cover was 43% and ground cover was 85%. Five years after the burns stopped canopy cover increased to 91%, ground cover decreased to 21%, and breeding no longer occurred (Engstrom et al. 1984).

In Missouri, breeding areas include red-cedar groves of limestone glades where woody plants constitute less than 33% of the plant cover (Probasco 1978), early succession shrub and grass old fields, shrub and grass savanna, oak-hickory stands cut within the past three years, and stands of shortleaf pines with diameters of less than 7.6 cm (Evans and Kirkman 1981, Hardin et al. 1982). Within 13 territories in limestone glades, shrubs had an average cover of 4.1% and tree cover averaged 2.3% (Hardin et al. 1982). See also Hardin and Probasco (1983).

In the southern states, singing perches generally are on the dead lower branches or stubs of living pine trees (LeGrand and Schneider 1992).

Winters mainly in habitats with dense grassy cover, mostly under open pine woods, also in grassy fields, such as broomsedge (Hamel 1992), scrub oak, and along fence rows; has been recorded in riparian habitats and sometimes along the saltwater shores of coastal woodlands (Burleigh 1958, Bent 1968, Sprunt and Chamberlain 1970, LeGrand and Schneider 1992).

Nests on the ground in dense cover, against/under grass tuft or under low shrub (Harrison 1978), in grassy opening, field, or area with scattered trees. Open, domed nests are built by the female and consist of coarse dry grasses and weed stems lined with finer materials (Blincoe 1921, Ganier 1921, Brooks 1938). Six nests in Alabama were 18-20 cm high and 11.4 cm wide, with a smaller inner cavity (Weston, in Bent 1968).


Restricted to moderate-to-dense stands of wiregrass usually growing beneath longleaf pine stands. May also be found in cutover pine woods, provided the grass ground cover is undisturbed. The birds occur in weedy and brushy fields adjoining the wiregrass in the summer. In winter they are largely confined to dense stands of wiregrass, especially fruiting stands, burned the previous year. Sensitive to habitat disturbance, particularly alteration or destruction of the grassland ground cover. Litter accumulation caused by fire suppression appears to deter Bachman's sparrows. The bird is most common in stands burned every 1-3 years. Prolonged fire exclusion (5 or more years) leads to hardwood encroachment and the breakup of grassland ground cover.

Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
42 Xeric Longleaf Pine Sandhills including a range of longleaf pine density from predominantly wiregrass, scrub oak dominated to true longleaf pine woodland. This does not include mesic or saturated flatwood types. Xeric Sandhill Scrub, Pine/Scrub Oak Sandhill, Coastal Fringe Sandhill
46 Xeric Oak - Pine Forests Mixed forest dominated by yellow pines with white or northern red oaks co-dominating. Pine Oak Heath
View Entire Landcover Legend
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Brooks, M. 1934. Some changes in the breeding birds of Upshur County, West Virginia. Wilson Bull. 46:243-247.

Brooks, M. 1938. Bachman's sparrow in the north-central portion of its range. Wilson Bull. 50:86-109.

Hardin, K.I., T.S. Baskett, and K.E. Evans. 1982. Habitat of Bachman's sparrows breeding on Missouri glades. Wilson Bull. 94:208-212.

Haggerty, T.M. 1988. Aspects of the breeding biology and productivity of Bachman's sparrow in central Arkansas. Wilson Bull. 100:247-255.

Carter, M., G. Fenwick, C. Hunter, D. Pashley, D. Petit, J. Price, and J. Trapp. 1996. Watchlist 1996:For the future. Field Notes 50(3):238-240.

Ehrlich, P.R., D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1992. Birds in jeopardy:the imperiled and extinct birds of the United States and Canada, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. 259 pp.

Hamel, P. B. 1992. The land manager's guide to the birds of the south. The Nature Conservancy, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 367 pp + several appendices.

Herkert, J. R., editor. 1992. Endangered and threatened species of Illinois:status and distribution. Vol. 2:Animals. Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board. iv + 142 pp.

Hands, H. M., R. D. Drobney, and M. R. Ryan. 1989. Status of the Bachman's sparrow in the northcentral United States. Missouri Coop. Fish Wildl. Res. Unit Rep. 11 pp.

Haggerty, T.M. 1986. Reproductive ecology of Bachman's sparrow (AIMOPHILA AESTIVALIS) in central Arkansas. Ph.D. dissertation, Univ. Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Probasco, G. E. 1978. Bird habitat-woody plant relations on Missouri limestone glades. Pages 107-109 in D. C. Glenn-Lewin and R. Q. Landers, editors. Proceedings of the fifth Midwest prairie conference, Iowa State Univ., Ames. 230 pp.

Allaire, P.N., and C.D. Fisher. 1975. Feeding ecology of three resident sympatric sparrows in eastern Texas. Auk 92:260-269.

LeGrand, H.E., Jr., and K.J. Schneider. 1992. Bachman's sparrow, AIMOPHILA AESTIVALIS. Pages 299-313 in K. J. Schneider and D. M. Pence, editors. Migratory nongame birds of management concern in the Northeast. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Newton Corner

Nicholson, C.P. 1976. The Bachmanís Sparrow in Tennessee. Migrant 48:53-62.

Platt, W.J., G.W. Evans, and S.L. Rathbun. 1988. The population dynamics of a long-lived conifer (Pinus Palustris). Amer. Nat. 131:491-525.

Fussell, J.O. III. 1994. A birderís guide to coastal North Carolina. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press.

Oberholser, H.C. 1974. The bird life of Texas. 2 vols. Univ. of Texas Press, Austin.

Hardin, K.I. and G.E. Progasco. 1983. The habitat characteristics and life requirements of Bachman's Sparrow. Birding 15(4-5):189-197.

Burleigh, T. D. 1958. Georgia birds. Univ. Oklahoma Press, Norman. 746 pp.

Hardin, K.I. 1977. Status and habitat preferences of Bachman's sparrow on southern Missouri glades. Maryland Nat. Hist. Soc., Baltimore.

Dunning, J.B., Jr., and B.D. Watts. 1990. Regional differences in habitat occupancy by Bachman's sparrow. Auk 107:463-472.

Mengel, R. M. 1965. The birds of Kentucky. Ornithol. Monogr. No. 3. 581 pp.

Bent, A. C. 1968. Life histories of North American cardinals, grosbeaks, buntings, towhees, finches, sparrows, and allies. Bull. U.S. Nat. Mus. 237.

Graber, R. R., and J. W. Graber. 1963. A comparative study of bird populations in Illinois, 1906-1909 and 1956-1958. Illinois Natural History Survey Bull. 28:383-528.

Sprunt, A., and E. B. Chamberlain. 1970. South Carolina bird life. Second edition. Univ. South Carolina Press, Columbia. 655 p.

Engstrom, R. T., R. L. Crawford, and W. W. Baker. 1984. Breeding bird populations in relation to changing forest structure following fire exclusion:a 15-year study. Wilson Bull. 96:437-450.

Harrison, C. 1978. A field guide to the nests, eggs and nestlings of North American birds. Collins, Cleveland, Ohio.

Harrison, H.H. 1979. A field guide to western birds' nests. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 279 pp.

Peterson, R.T. 1980. A field guide to the birds east of the Rockies. Houghton Mifflin Company. 383 pp.

Potter, E. F., J. F. Parnell, and R. P. Teulings. 1980. Birds of the Carolinas. Univ. North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. 408 pp.

Terres, J.K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

Evans, K. E., and R. A. Kirkman. 1981. Guide to bird habitats of the Ozark Plateau. USDA Forest Service, Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-68. 79 pp.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), Committee on Classification and Nomenclature. 1983. Check-list of North American Birds. Sixth Edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas.

National Geographic Society (NGS). 1983. Field guide to the birds of North America. National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C.

McNair, D.B. 1986. Past breeding distribution of eleven species in Georgia based on nest records from egg data slips. Oriole 51:28-31.

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Migratory Bird Management. 1987. Migratory nongame birds of management concern in the United States:the 1987 list.

Byrd, M.A., and D.W. Johnston. 1991. Birds. Pages 477-537 in K. Terwilliger, coordinator. Virginia's endangered species:proceedings of a symposium. McDonald and Woodward Publ. Co., Blacksburg, Virginia.

Bendire, C.E. 1888. Notes on the nest and eggs of Peucaea aestivalis bachmani Audubon, Bachman's sparrow. Auk 5:351-356.

Sibley, C.G., and B.L. Monroe. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut. xxiv + 1111 pp.

Blincoe, B. J. 1921. Two Bachman's sparrows' nests near Bardstown, Kentucky. Wilson Bull. 33:100-101.

Ganier, A.F. 1921. Nesting of Bachman's sparrow. Wilson Bull. 33:2-4.

10 March 2005
This data was compiled and/or developed by the North Carolina GAP Analysis Project.

For more information please contact them at:
NC-GAP Analysis Project
Dept. of Zoology, NCSU
Campus Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695-7617
(919) 513-2853