WatchList Species Account for Bachman’s Sparrow
(Aimophila aestivalis)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species


Bachman's Sparrow

Photo: Greg Lavaty

The secretive and shy Bachman’s Sparrow was historically most common in mature, open pine forests in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont of the southeastern U.S. These forests have been extensively logged, so over much of its range the bird inhabits open habitats such as clearcuts and utility rights-of-way.


It prefers pine woodlands or open habitats with a dense ground cover of grasses and forbs, and an open understory with a few shrubs. At present it is locally distributed from North Carolina south to Florida and west to southern Missouri, Arkansas, and east Texas. It is currently rare in many areas where it was once common.


During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it expanded its range tremendously, extending to Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and southwestern Pennsylvania, but then it withdrew and declined significantly from the 1930s to the 1960s. It is thought that the expansion may have been due to farm abandonment and deforestation, with accompanying suitable habitat of degraded pastures and abandoned fields, but as forest succession progressed, these habitats disappeared.


The bird is affected greatly by timber management in southern pinewoods and is negatively impacted by fire suppression, which creates unfavorable conditions for the birds in the understory and ground cover. Regular burning of the understory benefits the species by encouraging establishment of grasses. Thinning of young trees also benefits the birds. Young pine plantations become unsuitable for the bird within 4 to 7 years of replanting after harvest. Most areas are harvested at less than a 40-year rotation, which means that few areas become old enough to develop the right ground and understory conditions for the bird.