Birds – Savanna Sparrow

(Ammodramus sandwichensis savanna) Finch family


Length—5.5 to 6 inches. A trifle smaller than the English sparrow.

Male and Female—Cheeks, space over the eye, and on the bend of the wings pale yellow. General effect of the upper parts brownish drab, streaked with black. Wings and tail dusky, the outer webs of the feathers margined with buff. Under parts white, heavily streaked with blackish and rufous, the marks on breast feathers being wedge-shaped. In the autumn the plumage is often suffused with a yellow tinge.

Range-Eastern North America, from Hudson Bay to Mexico. Winters south of Illinois and Virginia.

Migrations—April. October. A few remain in sheltered marshes at the north all winter.

Look for the savanna sparrow in salt marshes, marshy or upland pastures, never far inland, and if you see a sparrowy bird, unusually white and heavily streaked beneath, and with pale yellow markings about the eye and on the bend of the wing, you may still make several guesses at its identity before the weak, little insect-like trill finally establishes it. Whoever can correctly name every sparrow and warbler on sight is a person to be envied, if, indeed, he exists at all.

In the lowlands of Nova Scotia and, in fact, of all the maritime provinces, this sparrow is the one that is perhaps most commonly seen. Every fence-rail has one perched upon it, singing “Ptsip, ptsip, ptsip, zee-e-e-e-e” close to the ear of the passer-by, who otherwise might not hear the low grasshopper-like song. At the north the bird somehow loses the shyness that makes it comparatively little known farther south. Depending upon the scrub and grass to conceal it, you may almost tread upon it before it startles you by its sudden rising with a whirring noise, only to drop to the ground again just as suddenly a few yards farther away, where it scuds among the underbrush and is lost to sight. Tall weeds and fence-rails are as high and exposed situations as it is likely to select while singing. It is most distinctively a ground bird, and flat upon the pasture or in a slightly hollowed cup it has the merest apology for a nest. Only a few wisps of grass are laid in the cavity to receive the pale-green eggs, that are covered most curiously with blotches of brown of many shapes and tints.