- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Passerellidae
The aptly named Seaside Sparrow is a fixture in saltmarshes and rarely seen anywhere else. These large, dark sparrows, highlighted with yellow and buff, are well suited for a life clinging to marsh grasses and foraging in mud. They have strong legs and feet for agility and a long, heavy bill for digging invertebrates and seeds from dense vegetation and thick mud. Seaside Sparrows range across saltmarshes in search of prey-rich mudflats exposed by tides and storms. Their song is distinctive but fairly quiet, ending in a muffled trill.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Head to a saltmarsh along the U.S. Atlantic coast in springtime, and listen for the male's buzzy call. It sounds like a subdued version of a Red-winged Blackbird's song. When singing, males perch high in the marsh vegetation, especially in early morning but also through the night. To confirm the ID, look for this rather bulky sparrow's dark coloration and very large, long bill.
- Chingolo costero (Spanish)
- Bruant maritime (French)
- Cool Facts
- Seaside Sparrows use their wings and tails for communication, like avian semaphore signalers. Males often raise one wing when displaying to a potential mate. To threaten an intruder, males and females may raise and shiver the wings or spread the tail. Raising the wings makes the yellow feathers at the carpal joint (the “wrist”) especially prominent. Another threat display involves picking up a piece of grass or wrack and pointing it at the intruder.
- Seaside Sparrows defend nesting territories within the saltmarsh but often feed far outside the territory boundaries. In the constantly changing tidal zone where it lives, nesting and feeding areas often are widely separated.
- The oldest recorded Seaside Sparrow was a male at least 10 years old when he was recaptured and re-released during banding operations in South Carolina.