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Saltmarsh Sparrow


IUCN Conservation Status: Vulnerable

A secretive bird with skulking habits and a barely audible song, the Saltmarsh Sparrow is restricted to salt marshes of the Atlantic and upper Gulf coasts.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
4.3–5.1 in
11–13 cm
0.5–0.7 oz
14–19 g
Other Names
  • Sharp-tailed Sparrow (in part) (English)
  • Bruant [Pinson] à queue aiguë (French)

Cool Facts

  • The Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow is nonterritorial and promiscuous, and only females provide parental care. Males occupy large overlapping home ranges, and the mating relationship features forced copulations by males.
  • Breeding success in many Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow populations seems limited by storms and especially “spring” (high) tides, which often flood nests. The most successful pairs in these populations are those that renest soon after the flood tides of the new moon.
  • The Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow formerly was considered as the same species as the Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, collectively known as the Sharp-tailed Sparrow. The two forms have separate breeding ranges that barely overlap in Maine. They differ in genetics, songs, and subtle plumage characters.
  • The oldest recorded Saltmarsh Sparrow was a male, and at least 7 years, 11 months old when he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Rhode Island.



Salt marshes.



Insects, spiders, marine invertebrates, and some seeds.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
2–6 eggs
Egg Description
Greenish, covered with dark speckles.
Condition at Hatching
Nest Description

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

Nest Placement



Ground Forager

Forages on ground in dense grass or edges of shallow pools.


status via IUCN


There is little information on Saltmarsh Sparrow population trends, but the species is declining, and it is listed on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List, which includes bird species that are most at risk of extinction without significant conservation actions to reverse declines and reduce threats. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 75,000, with 100% living in the U.S.. The species rates a 19 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. It is both a Tri-National Concern Species, and a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species. Saltmarsh Sparrow is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The species is threatened by habitat loss due to development, habitat degradation from chemical spills and other pollutants, invasive species, and sea level rise.


Range Map Help

Saltmarsh Sparrow Range Map
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