Centronyx bairdii

Status:  Rare casual spring and fall migrant statewide.

Documentation:  Specimen: HMM 14237, 19 May 1935 Juniata, Adams Co (Brooking 1935).

Taxonomy:  No subspecies are recognized (Pyle 1997).

This species and Henslow’s Sparrow were moved to a new genus, Centronyx, from Ammodramus, based on genetic studies that indicated former Ammodramus was paraphyletic (Chesser et al 2018).

Spring:  Apr 24, 26, 28 <<<>>> May 18, 19, 19

Published data show spring reports in the period 24 Apr-23 May; 32 of the 33 accepted records are in the short period 24 Apr-19 May (see below for list), and there is a single Jun record, of one recorded west of Highway 29 between Agate and Harrison, Sioux Co, 13 Jun 2019 ( These reports suggest that migrants may appear statewide, and not always in expected habitat. Preferred habitat during migration is probably native prairie, especially dense shortgrass prairie (Pulich 1988) or sparse grassland with clumps of grass in well-drained areas like hilltops (Mark Robbins, pers. comm.) These habitats are most common from Sheridan and Garden Cos westward, especially in northern and northwestern Sioux Co. This species is probably regular in occurrence in such habitat, but is difficult to find, although several records involve singing males (see below and Comments). Available dates suggest a tight window of migration timing during the first two weeks of May. There is an increasing number of reliable reports from atypical habits in the east, however (see Spring).

Accepted records are as follows (the single Jun record is given above).

Easterly records are: one was photographed at Kissinger Basin WMA, Clay Co 24 Apr 1999 (Jorgensen 2012). An amazing record was of one which was photographed by two observers at different times and remained in atypical habitat, a non-native grassy roadside near Heron WPA, a playa wetland basin, in York Co 26 Apr-10 May 1998 (Brogie 1999). The song of one near Elmwood, Cass Co 1-2 May 2001 was compared to a tape. A singing male was seen 4 and 6 May 1990 in Cass Co (Grenon 1991; Grzybowski 1990). A specimen “very critically studied” by Swenk was collected near Kearney, Buffalo Co 6 May 1914 and mounted for the Olson collection (Swenk, Notes Before 1925). A calling bird was found in a weedy abandoned alfalfa field near Creighton, Knox Co 18 May 2004. A mounted specimen collected at Juniata, Adams Co 19 May 1935 is cited above. Brooking (Notes) listed one in his collection taken by Cyrus Black at Kearney, Buffalo Co May 1917, without details; this specimen was apparently not recorded by Swenk.

Westerly records are: a single bird was at Clear Creek WMA, Keith Co 9 May 1998 (Brown and Brown 2001). A singing male was in Banner Co 11 May 1996 (Brogie 1997; Silcock 1996). Up to three singing, apparently territorial, birds were found in extreme northeast Sioux Co 14 May 2010 (Brogie 2011); many NOU meeting attendees saw these birds through 19 May (Brogie 2011), but none were found there 1 Jun; five were found in the same area 17 May 2009 (Bird Conservancy of the Rockies). In extreme northwest Sioux Co eight individuals were found 18 May 2009 (Bird Conservancy of the Rockies). One was singing in a field occupied also by Chestnut-collared Longspurs about nine miles south of Harrison, Sioux Co on Highway 29 on 16 May 2010; also in this general area were one was west of Agate 3 Jun 2016 and another northwest of Agate 13 Jun 2019 (Bird Conservancy of the Rockies; Brogie 2020). Four were singing in western Sioux Co 18 May 2009. A specimen taken at Overton, Dawson Co 16 May 1911 was #2835 in the Brooking Collection (Swenk, Notes After 1925); Swenk had listed this specimen earlier as taken 16 May 1901, probably in error (Swenk, Notes Before 1925). Two were singing a few miles northwest of Crawford, Dawes Co on Sugar Loaf Road 17 May 2009; none were there 26 May. A singing bird along Toadstool Road, Sioux Co 17 May 2019 was recorded (David Tonnessen,; Brogie 2020).

Specimen data from Colorado (Andrews and Righter 1992) and Kansas (Thompson et al 2011) show spring dates 25 Apr-14 May.

Reports not accepted by NOURC are at rather early dates: 25 Mar 1988 Lancaster Co (Grenon 1990), 12 Apr 1997 Sarpy Co (Brogie 1998) and 28 Apr 2018 Saline Co (Brogie 2019).

Fall: There are few reports; Baird’s Sparrow is difficult to identify when not singing in fall. Specimen data from Colorado (Andrews and Righter 1992) and Kansas (Thompson et al 2011) show fall dates 22 Aug-14 Oct. There are more reports for fall than in spring in Wyoming; most fall dates there are in the period 25 Aug-7 Sep (Faulkner 2010).

There are many published reports, but only these are accepted:

17 Aug 1936 specimen, UNSM ZM7299, Logan Co (Glandon and Glandon 1937)

9 Sep 1994 Custer Co (Korpi and Korpi 1994)

16 Sep 2017 three in McPherson Co (Silcock In Press 2018, NBR Fall Field Report).

9 Sep 2002 NNF Halsey, Thomas Co (Silcock 2002)

26 Sep 1999 two at Clear Creek WMA, Garden Co (Brown and Brown 2001; Jorgensen 2001)

15 Oct 1980 one banded at Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co for a first fall refuge record (Cortelyou 1981; Williams 1981).

There is one report not accepted by NOURC, 27 Sep 1996 Scotts Bluff Co (Brogie 1997). One reported as “possible” was in Red Willow Co 9 Oct 2008 (Silcock 2008).

Comments:  A comment that “The Rosches may have run down the only known location for breeding Baird’s Sparrows in the Region, with three territorial males in Sioux, NE, June 27” (Grzybowski 1996) is unsupported.

In extreme eastern Wyoming, Baird’s Sparrow occurs in May and early Jun (Scott 1993), but as of 2010 there was no proof of nesting (Faulkner 2010).  Since then, territorial singing males have been found at one site in extreme northern Colorado, Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, Larimer Co, and three in southeastern Wyoming, in Albany, Converse, and Carbon Cos during 15 May-30 Jul. These four sites are 55-120 miles from Nebraska, closest the Soapstone site, only 55 miles west of Kimball Co.  Zach Hutchinson (post to WYOBIRDS 16 Jun 2018) pointed out two similarities between the Shirley Basin, Carbon Co, Wyoming site and the Soapstone, Larimer, CO sites: sedges are common in wet meadows and grasses are of medium height at both. Best counts at the four sites are 15 at Soapstone, Colorado, and eight in Albany Co, Wyoming.


HMM: Hastings Municipal Museum
NOU: Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union
NOURC: Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee
NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum
WMA: Wildlife Management Area (State)
WPA: Waterfowl Production Area (Federal)


Photograph (top) of a Baird’s Sparrow north of Harrison, Sioux Co 16 May 2010 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

Andrews, R., and R. Righter. 1992. Colorado birds.  Denver Museum of Natural History, Denver, Colorado, USA.

Brogie, M.A. 1997. 1996 (Eighth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 65: 115-126.

Brogie, M.A. 1998. 1997 (Ninth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 66: 147-159.

Brogie, M.A. 1999. 1998 (Tenth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 67: 141-152.

Brogie, M.A. 2011. 2010 (22nd) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 79: 99-111.

Brogie, M.A. 2019. 2018 (30th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 87: 96-109.

Brogie, M.A. 2020. 2019 (31st) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 88: 124-134.

Brooking, A.M. Notes. Bird specimen records. Manuscript in NOU Archives, University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Brooking, A.M. 1935. The Baird Sparrow at Juniata, Adams County. NBR 3: 85.

Brown, C.R., and M.B. Brown. 2001. Birds of the Cedar Point Biological Station. Occasional Papers of the Cedar Point Biological Station, No. 1.

Chesser, R.T., K.J. Burns, C. Cicero, J.L. Dunn, A.W. Kratter, I.J. Lovette, P.C. Rasmussen, J. V. Remsen, Jr., D.F. Stotz, B.M. Winger, and K. Winker. 2018. Fifty-ninth Supplement to the American Ornithological Society’s Check-list of North American Birds. Auk 135: 798-813.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1981. 1980 (Twenty-third) Fall Occurrence Report. NBR 49: 14-30.

Faulkner, D.W. 2010. Birds of Wyoming. Roberts and Company, Greenwood Village, Colorado, USA.

Glandon, E.W., and R. Glandon. 1937. More bird identifications for Logan County. NBR 5: 29-31.

Grenon, A.G. 1990. 1990 (Third) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 58: 90-97.

Grenon, A.G. 1991. 1991 (Fourth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 59: 150-155.

Grzybowski, J.A. 1990. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 44: 454-457.

Grzybowski, J.A. 1996. Southern Great Plains Region. Field Notes 50: 965-968.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2001. 1999 (Eleventh) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 69: 85-91.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2012.  Birds of the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska.  Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Korpi, R.C., and R.T. Korpi. 1994. Baird’s Sparrow and other species in Custer County, Nebraska. NBR 62: 123.

Pulich, W.M. 1988. The birds of north central Texas. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, College Station, Texas, USA.

Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.

Scott, O.K. 1993. A birder’s guide to Wyoming.  American Birding Association, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA.

Silcock, W.R. 1996. Spring Field Report, March-May 1996. NBR 64: 42-68.

Silcock, W.R. 2002. Fall Field Report. August-November 2002. NBR 70: 130-167.

Swenk, M.H. Notes before 1925. Bird notes from A.M. Brooking of Hastings, C.A. Black of Kearney, and B.J. Olson of Kearney, based chiefly on their collections, up to January 1, 1925. Typed manuscript in the Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Archives, University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Thompson, M.C., C.A. Ely, B. Gress, C. Otte, S.T. Patti, D. Seibel, and E.A. Young. 2011. Birds of Kansas.  University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA.

Williams, F. 1981. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 35: 198-201.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2021.  Baird’s Sparrow (Centronyx bairdii). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 17 Mar 2021