Birds – Seaside Sparrow

(Ammodramus maritimus) Finch family

Called also : MEADOW CHIPPY; SEASIDE FINCH

Length—6 inches. A shade smaller than the English sparrow.

Male and Female—Upper parts dusky grayish or olivaceous brown, inclining to gray on shoulders and on edges of some feathers. Wings and tail darkest. Throat yellowish white, shading to gray on breast, which is indistinctly mottled and streaked. A yellow spot before the eye and on bend of the wing, the bird’s characteristic marks. Blunt tail.

Range—Atlantic seaboard, from Georgia northward. Usually winters south of Virginia.

Migrations—April. November. A few remain in sheltered marshes all winter.

The savanna, the swamp, the sharp-tailed, and the song sparrows may all sometimes be found in the haunts of the seaside sparrow, but you may be certain of finding the latter nowhere else than in the salt marshes within sight or sound of the sea. It is a dingy little bird, with the least definite coloring of all the spar-rows that have maritime inclinations, with no rufous tint in its feathers, and less distinct streakings on the breast than any of them. It has no black markings on the back.

Good-sized flocks of seaside sparrows live together in the marshes; but they spend so much of their time on the ground, running about among the reeds and grasses, whose seeds and insect parasites they feed upon, that not until some unusual disturbance in the quiet place flushes them does the intruder suspect their presence, Hunters after beach-birds, longshoremen, seaside cottagers, and whoever follows the windings of a creek through the salt meadows to catch crabs and eels in midsummer, are well acquainted with the “meadow chippies,” as the fisher-men call them. They keep up a good deal of chirping, sparrow-fashion, and have four or five notes resembling a song that is usually delivered from a tall reed stalk, where the bird sways and balances until his husky performance has ended, when down he drops upon the ground out of sight. Sometimes, too, these notes are uttered while the bird flutters in the air above the tops of the sedges.