Birds – Sharp-tailed Sparrow

(Ammodramus caudacutus) Finch family

Length—5.25 to 5.85 inches. A trifle smaller than the English sparrow.

Male and Female—Upper parts brownish or grayish olive, the back with black streaks, and gray edges to some feathers. A gray line through centre of crown, which has maroon stripes; gray ears enclosed by buff lines, one of which passes through the eye and one on side of throat; brownish orange, or buff, on sides of head. Bend of the wing yellow. Breast and sides pale buff, distinctly streaked with black. Underneath whitish. Each narrow quill of tail is sharply pointed, the outer ones shortest.

Range—Atlantic coast. Winters south of Virginia. Migrations—April. November. Summer resident.

This bird delights in the company of the dull-colored seaside sparrow, whose haunts in the salt marshes it frequents, especially the drier parts; but its pointed tail-quills and more distinct markings are sufficient to prevent confusion. Mr. J. Dwight, Jr., who has made a special study of maritime birds, says of it: “It runs about among the reeds and grasses with the celerity of a mouse, and it is not apt to take wing unless closely pressed.” (Wilson credited it with the nimbleness of a sandpiper.) “It builds its nest in the tussocks on the bank of a ditch, or in the drift left by

the tide, rather than in the grassier sites chosen by its neighbors, the seaside sparrows.”

Only rarely does one get a glimpse of this shy little bird, that darts out of sight like a flash at the first approach. Balancing

on a cat-tail stalk or perched upon a bit of driftwood, it makes a feeble, husky attempt to sing a few notes; and during the brief

performance the opera-glasses may search it out successfully. While it feeds upon the bits of sea-food washed ashore to the edge of the marshes, it gives us perhaps the best chance we ever get, outside of a museum, to study the bird’s characteristics of plumage.

“Both the sharp-tailed and the seaside finches are crepuscular,” says Dr. Abbott, in “The Birds About Us.” They run up and down the reeds and on the water’s edge long after most birds have gone to sleep.