American Bird Grasshopper

American bird grasshopper on round-headed bush clover and big bluestem
Scientific Name
Schistocerca americana
Acrididae (short-horned grasshoppers) in the order Orthoptera (grasshoppers, katydids, crickets)

The American bird grasshopper is a large grasshopper with ornate markings. The main color is tan, with sometimes an olive or pinkish cast. It is one of approximately six species of bird grasshoppers (genus Schistocerca) that occur in Missouri. Like most of the others, it is a long-bodied hopper, with large wings, and it can fly rather gracefully away from danger, particularly up into trees. To separate the American bird grasshopper from other long-bodied, ornate grasshoppers (such as the admirable grasshopper, which is not closely related), note precise markings, including:

  • a large, creamy stripe running down the back from the head to the wings;
  • on each side of the pronotum (the shieldlike part covering the thorax, behind the head), a dark spot that is split in two by a narrow pale stripe;
  • a white spot on the side of the knees; and
  • the spotted wings.

Also note the overall body shape and proportions, including the head shape (the admirable grasshopper's head is quite slanted).

The five or six immature stages are usually green or tan; they may have different colors and patterns. These vary not only with life stage and local population genetics, but also with environmental circumstances.

To learn more about this and others in the bird grasshopper genus, visit their group page.

To learn more about this and other members of the short-horned grasshopper family, visit their group page.


Other Common Names
American Grasshopper
Where To Find

Statewide. Widespread in eastern North America.

Usually occurs in sunny, open areas such as prairies, fields, pastures, cropland, gardens, and open woodlands.

This is one of the species of bird grasshoppers that, under certain adverse environmental conditions and population densities, may become gregarious (group together) and disperse to new, more favorable areas.

Life Cycle

Because American bird grasshoppers overwinter as adults, adults of this species are usually seen, first, in spring into early summer, and then again in late summer. The broods may overlap in the summertime. You may also see them being active in late fall and even on warm days in wintertime.

This species can be a crop pest, feeding destructively on cultivated plants. This is especially the case in Florida, where American bird grasshoppers are a notable pest in citrus groves.

This and other grasshoppers play important roles in the food chain, transferring nutrients from the leafy plants they chew to the many animals that capture and eat grasshoppers.

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Similar Species
About Land Invertebrates in Missouri
Invertebrates are animals without backbones, including earthworms, slugs, snails, and arthropods. Arthropods—invertebrates with “jointed legs” — are a group of invertebrates that includes crayfish, shrimp, millipedes, centipedes, mites, spiders, and insects. There may be as many as 10 million species of insects alive on earth today, and they probably constitute more than 90 percent all animal species.