Welcome to the Birds of North America Online!
Welcome to BNA Online, the leading source of life history information for North American breeding birds. This free, courtesy preview is just the first of 14 articles that provide detailed life history information including Distribution, Migration, Habitat, Food Habits, Sounds, Behavior and Breeding. Written by acknowledged experts on each species, there is also a comprehensive bibliography of published research on the species.
A subscription is needed to access the remaining articles for this and any other species. Subscription rates start as low as $5 USD for 30 days of complete access to the resource. To subscribe, please visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store.
If you are already a current subscriber, you will need to sign in with your login information to access BNA normally.
Subscriptions are available for as little as $5 for 30 days of full access! If you would like to subscribe to BNA Online, just visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store.
The Seaside Sparrow is a habitat specialist of salt and brackish marshes. First described by Wilson (1811), it has attracted the interest of systematists since the end of the nineteenth century. Occurring in relatively small, localized populations along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States, this species has been divided into several morphologically distinct subspecies.
This sparrow is socially monogamous although extrapair matings have been reported from S. Carolina. Although territorial, it often feeds long distances from the defended space around its nest, a response to wide separation of nesting and feeding areas in the tidal zones it inhabits. Under ideal conditions, it may occur at high population densities, a reflection of the high productivity of salt marshes. Optimal habitat is found in marshes with expanses of medium-high cordgrass with a turf of clumped, residual stems. Especially suitable are spots not subject to extreme flooding that have open muddy areas for feeding. Nest mortality of northern populations is caused mainly by storm flooding; flooding is a significant mortality factor among southern groups, but predation is also important, and its intensity is often related to changes in water levels.
As a maritime wetland specialist, the Seaside Sparrow represents a potentially valuable “indicator” of continued ecological integrity of certain types of coastal marshes and has already proven sensitive to habitat modification in Florida. The melanistic Dusky Seaside Sparrow (A. m. nigrescens) of east-central Florida is extinct; the pale Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow (A. m. mirabilis) of the Florida Everglades is endangered. Other populations are as likely to be susceptible to habitat disturbance and restriction as those in Florida. The species has been studied in detail in the Northeast (Woolfenden 1956, Post et al. 1983) and Florida (Post et al. 1983, Werner and Woolfenden 1983, Lockwood et al. 1997)