Henslow's Sparrow
(Centronyx henslowii)


Picture of bird
© John Reaume
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

In Canada, the Henslow's Sparrow breeds in very small numbers in grassland habitats in southern Ontario and Quebec. Long-term population data are scarce, but the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario detected a large decrease in occurrence between 1981-1985 and 2001-2005, and the species is now found only at a few sites in Canada. Because of its small population and threats to its habitat, Henslow's Sparrow was assessed as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 1993 and was last re-assessed as such in 2011 COSEWIC 2011d). It was listed as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act in 2003. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Endangered2011 
SARA (Canada)Endangered2003 
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow R2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Critically imperiled2015 
State of North America’s BirdsWatch list2016 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge DecreaseHighBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada< 50 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery Low

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between mid-May and late May and ends between mid-July and late July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

The main threat to the Henslow's Sparrow is the loss and degradation of moist, grassy habitats, both on its breeding and wintering ranges (Herkert et al. 2002, Tuininga 2007, COSEWIC 2011d). Due to changing agricultural practices, conversion of grassy habitats to row crops and urban sprawl, there is less suitable habitat. This species, and other grassland birds of conservation priority, have been shown to use habitat patches surrounded by urban landcover, suggesting that preservation of grassland habitat in developed landscapes may contribute to other conservation efforts (Buxton and Benson 2016). For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view the Recovery Strategy see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Conservation