Backyard Birds

Seaside Sparrows

The Seaside Sparrows, Ammodramus maritimus, is a small American sparrow. The 11 Ammodramus species inhabit marshes and grasslands.

One of the numerous subspecies of this bird, the Dusky Seaside Sparrow (A. m. nigrescens), has recently become extinct, and the Cape Sable subspecies, A. m. mirabilis, is endangered. Occurring in a restricted range but of uncertain validity is Scott’s Seaside Sparrow, (A. m. peninsulae).

Those were formerly considered a separate species.

  • Note: The talented musician “Ron Vaughan” wrote and recorded a lovely song about the Dusky Seaside Sparrow. It’s called “One Lonely Sparrow” and was dedicated to “Orange Band” the last known Dusky Seaside Sparrow in existence.


Adults have brownish upperparts with grey on the crown and nape, and a grayish buff colored breast with dark streaks; they have a dark face with grey cheeks, a white throat, and a short pointed tail. Birds show a small yellow streak just above the eye.


Distribution / Range

Their breeding habitat is salt marshes on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States from southern New Hampshire to southern Texas.

Northern birds most often migrate further south along the eastern coast of the United States.

Nesting / Breeding

The nest is an open cup usually built in the salt marsh on tidal reeds and spartina grasses. Females lay 2-5 eggs.

Diet / Feeding

They forage on the ground or in marsh vegetation, sometimes probing in mud. They mainly eat insects, marine invertebrates and seeds. Their feeding areas are often some distance away from the areas they choose to nest.

Calls / Vocalizations

The call closely resembles a raspy buzz, similar to a distant Red-winged Blackbird.


  • BirdLife International (2004). Ammodramus maritimus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes a range map and justification for why this species is of least concern.

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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