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 Swamp Sparrow is a common, if elusive and local, resident of the eastern United States and boreal Canada. First described by John Latham in 1790, and named after the state (Georgia) where the specimen he used for his description was collected, this sparrow is more easily detected by its song or call than by sight. Its clear, slow, liquid trill or metallic chink is often the only indication of its presence in the inaccessible habitats it occupies.
Aptly named, the Swamp Sparrow is seldom found far from water during the breeding season. Its preferred breeding habitat includes freshwater cattail (Typha sp.) marshes, brushy meadows, bogs, sedge (Carex sp.) swamps, and brackish marshes. Optimal habitat is found in marshes with open water, dense low vegetation, and available singing perches.
Composed of three morphologically distinct subspecies, this species is monogamous and territorial throughout its range and, under optimal conditions, may occur at high densities. It nests just above the ground or the surface of water and thus is subject to nest mortality from flooding. It is well adapted to foraging in and at the edge of water.
Song development, structure, and ontogeny have been well studied in this species and a solid background established in selective aspects of its territorial behavior, breeding ecology, habitat selection, and adaptation to its aquatic habitat. Because it occurs in relatively inaccessible habitats and is secretive in behavior, however, many key aspects of its natural history remain poorly documented. As wetlands increasingly become the focus of ecological studies, our knowledge of this interesting wetland species is sure to increase.