Saltmarsh Sparrow

Ammospiza caudacuta



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Figure 1. Distribution of Saltmarsh Sparrow.
Figure 2. Annual cycle of Saltmarsh Sparrow breeding, migration, and molt.

Thick lines show peak activity, thin lines off-peak activity. The lines for breeding and migration reflect average timing across range, but local peak and off-peak timing varies between northern and southern parts breeding range. Earliest migrants may be individual outliers. Molt initiation can vary depending on end of most breeding activity (primary sources: Hill 1965, Winder 2012; JSG, New York; WP, South Carolina; P. Pyle, molt, based on specimens. In New York, we found no evidence of body molt in early arrivals of local individuals on breeding grounds, latest April-early May; JSG banding notes). See text on migration chronology.

Figure 3. Abnormal distribution of leucistic feathers in Saltmarsh Sparrow in Connecticut.

Photo credit: C. Gjerdrum.

Figure 4. Detail of Saltmarsh Sparrow distribution.

Purple line in winter from Cape Cod southward signifies irregular (frequently absent) occurrence in specific coastal marshes by a few individuals (typically 1-3), often only in early winter.

Figure 5. Breeding habitat of the Saltmarsh Sparrow.

Typical salt-marsh habitat of the Saltmarsh Sparrow along the southern coast of New England. Photos by M. Male (top) and A. Poole (bottom).

Figure 6. Saltmarsh Sparrow with Fundulus sp.

Saltmarsh Sparrow with likely Marsh Killifish (Fundulidae: cf. Fundulus confluentus), Volusia County, Florida, 26 January 2012. Image by Ken Schmidt.

Figure 7. Saltmarsh Sparrow with Sailfin Molly (Poecilia latipinna).

Saltmarsh Sparrow with Sailfin Molly (Poeciliidae: Poecilia latipinna), Volusia County, Florida, 26 January 2012. Image by Ken Schmidt.

Figure 8. Complex song-like vocalizations of the Saltmarsh Sparrow.

A: ML93807821. Recorded by Andrew Spencer: Scarborough Marsh, Cumberland, Maine, United States. 11 June 2010. B: ML93807631. Recorded by Andrew Spencer: Barn Island WMA, New London, Connecticut, United States. 8 May 2010.C. Short segment of Complex Whisper Song showing 3 consecutive phrases from a much longer sequence (JSG, Oak Beach, NY).

Figure 9. Representative calls of the Saltmarsh Sparrow.

Representative calls of the Saltmarsh Sparrow: (a) Chic call (female, Oak Beach, NY; JSG); (b) Tic call (female, Oak Beach, NY; JSG); (c) Cee lisp (male, Oak Beach, NY; JSG); (d) Scream (sex unknown, Oak Beach, NY; JSG).

Figure 10. Representative calls of the Saltmarsh Sparrow.

A: Unidentified call recorded by Andrew Spencer: Barn Island WMA, New London, Connecticut, United States. 8 May 2010. B: "Chic" call recorded by Chris Field: Chittenden Park, in Guilford, Connecticut, United States. 16 June 2006. C: Series of "Tic" alarm calls from a female (ML26153) recorded by Thomas H. Davis: Oak Beach, Suffolk, New York, United States. 14 June 1980.

Figure 11. Saltmarsh Sparrow at the nest.

Nests of this species are usually built near the ground, in clumps of grass or low shrubs. In tidal salt-marsh habitats, such locations are often near the high tide line, so many nests get flooded during storms and new-/full-moon tides. Drawing by L. Zemaitis.

Figure 12. Growth curve of body mass of Saltmarsh Sparrow nestlings aligned against known age-zero chicks that were freshly hatched (mean, 95% confidence intervals).

Data from Greenlaw and Rising (1994).

Recommended Citation

Greenlaw, J. S., C. S. Elphick, W. Post, and J. D. Rising (2018). Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammospiza caudacuta), version 2.1. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.