Nelson's Sparrow Life History


Habitat MarshesFreshwater marshes and wet meadows in interior and brackish marshes along coast; in winter in salt and brackish marshes.Back to top


Food InsectsInsects, spiders, snails, and seeds.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Ground

Nest Description

Open cup of grass stems and blades, lined with finer grass blades and sometimes built up on sides to form partial covering.

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:2-6 eggs
Number of Broods:1-2 broods
Egg Length:0.7-0.8 in (1.7-2.1 cm)
Egg Width:0.5-0.6 in (1.3-1.5 cm)
Nestling Period:8-11 days
Egg Description:Greenish, covered with dark speckles.
Condition at Hatching:Helpless.
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Behavior Ground ForagerForages on ground in dense grass or edges of shallow pools.Back to top


Conservation Low ConcernNelson's Sparrows are relatively common and numbers increased between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 1.1 million with 100% spending part of the year in the U.S., and 87% in Canada. They are a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species and rate a 13 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Nelson's Sparrow are not listed in the 2014 State of the Birds Report. Back to top


Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. (2014). The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J. and W. A. Link. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966-2013 (Version 1.30.15). USGS Patuxtent Wildlife Research Center (2014b). Available from

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

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