Savannah Sparrow

Passerculus sandwichensis

From meadows to marshland, and from temperate coastlines to tundra, the Savannah Sparrow is found in various open habitats throughout much of North America. It varies widely across its range, with 17 recognized subspecies.

Interesting Information

  • The "Ipswich Savannah Sparrow," a subspecies that breeds on Sable Island, Nova Scotia, is nearly 50 percent heavier than most other Savannah Sparrow subspecies. It is the palest race, and is found in winter in sand dunes along the Atlantic Coast. It was formerly considered a separate species.

  • In many parts of the species' range, especially in coastal areas and islands, Savannah Sparrows tend very strongly to return each year to the area where they hatched. This tendency, called natal philopatry, is the driving force for differentiation of numerous Savannah Sparrow subspecies.

  • Of the 17 recognized subspecies, 6 are resident or partially migratory in salt marshes in California and Mexico.

  • It is named after Savannah, Georgia, where one of the first specimens of this bird was collected.

  • A group of sparrows has many collective nouns, including a "crew", "flutter", "meinie", "quarrel", and "ubiquity" of sparrows.


Adult Description

Small songbird.

Brown or grayish-brown overall.

Streaking on back, breast, and flanks.

Yellowish eyebrow stripe.

  • Length Range: 13-16 cm (5.25-6.25 in)

  • Weight: 23 g (0.8 oz)

  • Size: Small (5 - 9 in)


Similar to adult, but buffier and with crown stripe indistinct.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Inhabits a wide range of open country, including meadows, agricultural fields, pastures, salt marshes, and tundra.The "Ipswich Savannah Sparrow" is found in all seasons almost exclusively in coastal marram grass communities.


Feeds mostly on the ground, generally alone or, during the nonbreeding season, in small flocks.


Insects, insect larvae, and other small arthropods. Also consumes seeds, especially outside the breeding season.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae
Genus: Passerculus
Species: Passerculus sandwichensis
    Subspecies: Passerculus sandwichensis beldingi
  Passerculus sandwichensis guttatus
  Passerculus sandwichensis princeps
  Passerculus sandwichensis rostratus
  Passerculus sandwichensis sanctorum
  Passerculus sandwichensis sandwichensis

Similar Species

  • Many birds of open country, including other sparrow species, are also brown and streaked.

  • Vesper Sparrow has a bold white eyering and white outer tail feathers.

  • Song Sparrow is larger, with a longer tail, a rounded tail tip, and a thick mustache stripe. Shows large chest spot, but Savannah can show one too.

  • Species of the genus Ammodramus, such as Grasshopper Sparrow and Baird's Sparrow, show buff tones in the face and breast, and have unnotched, often spiky tails

Bird Sound

Song consists of several short notes followed by two or more high, thin, long buzzes. Various calls include a sharp, high chip and a slow series of repeated notes.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution