Diet and Foraging
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Main Foods Taken
Seeds, except during spring and early summer. Upon arrival on breeding grounds and for most of breeding season, arthropods are the predominant food source for adults and nestlings.
Microhabitat For Foraging
Usually forages on the ground, but during the breeding season foraging habitat is more diverse. In addition to ground foraging, on St. Catherines I., Liberty Co., Georgia, birds nesting along an ecotone between oak forest and cordgrass marsh, regularly foraged in marsh (up to 50 m from forest edge) and as high as 10 m in forest (SML). Stable isotope analysis suggested that 47-94% of diet on Sapelo I., McIntosh Co., Georgia, is derived from saltmarsh habitats (Brittain et al. 2012).
Food Capture And Consumption
Diurnal forager; uses variety of methods to acquire food. When collecting seeds from weak-stemmed herbs, flies up from the ground to grab the stem with its bill and then drags it back down; then places one foot on the stem and eats the seeds (SML).
Several individuals observed on St. Catherines I., Georgia, extracted arthropods from spiderwebs; for webs within 1 m of ground but when contents were out of reach, one female observed to fly above web, fold her wings in, fall through web to ground, and then eat arthropods from web (SML).
On the basis of analysis of 102 stomachs from birds taken during summer in Texas: 14% animal matter (grasshoppers [Orthoptera], beetles [Coleoptera, mostly weevils], caterpillars [Lepidoptera larvae], true bugs [Hemiptera], occasionally spiders [Arachnida], and snails [Gastropoda]); 86% plant matter—most (70% of total volume) bristle grass seeds; also panic grass (Panicum sp.), pigweed (Amaranthus sp.), wood sorrel (Oxalis sp.), spurge (Euphorbia sp.), and sedge (Carex sp.; Martin et al. 1951). Data reported by W. L. McAtee (in Beal et al. 1916a) for sample of 80 stomachs, probably a subsample of sample reported by Martin et al. (Martin et al. 1951): 79% plant matter and 21% animal matter; 18 of 80 stomachs included cotton boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) larvae. Study of contents of 13 stomachs of birds taken in unknown season in Florida: 73% seeds, including grasses (panic grass, St.-John's-wort [Hypericum]), sedges (Cyperus spp.), dock (Rumex acetosella), pine, rose (Rosa spp.), wheat (Triticum aestivum), and fig (Ficus spp.); 27% animal matter, including beetles, grasshoppers and crickets, bugs, wasps (Hymenoptera), flies (Diptera), and caterpillars (Howell 1932).
Food Selection and Storage
No information on food selection. Not known to store food.
Drinking, Pellet-Casting, and Defecation