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Swamp Sparrow

Melospiza georgiana

Length: 5 - 5.5 inches Wingspan: 7.5 - 8 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: Bright rusty upperparts and on wings, rusty crown, gray face, dark line behind eye, white throat. 

Swamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgianaThe Swamp Sparrow is aptly named, as they are most often found in dense thickets of freshwater swamps and wetlands.  They are normally quite solitary, and while they may be locally common, they are most often encountered as single birds or pairs.  Males will sing day or night from high perches to establish nesting territories during the breeding season.

Habitat: During the summer breeding season, they are found in freshwater wetlands with dense emergent vegetation, such as cattails and sedges, and often where woody vegetation such as alder or willow thickets are present.  A race on the Atlantic Coast breeds in salt-water marshes.  They are usually found in similar habitats in migration and in winter.

Diet: The summer diet is mostly insects.  They also feed heavily on seeds, especially during the fall and winter.

Behavior: Most of its feeding is done while on the ground or at the water's edge.  They will also occasionally wade in very shallow water or feed in the dense wetland vegetation.

Nesting: June and July

Song: A slow, strong, one-pitched trill.  Click here for the Swamp Sparrow song.

Migration: Summers throughout central and eastern Canada, and the eastern U.S. north of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Virginia.  Winters in the southeastern quarter of the U.S., in parts of the southwestern U.S., and in Mexico.

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Swamp Sparrow sightings

Similar Species: White-throated Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow

Conservation Status: Still widespread and fairly common, although numbers are much lower than historical levels due to loss of wetland habitat.  In recent decades numbers may be rebounding. The IUCN currently lists the Swamp Sparrow as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Swamp Sparrow

2) WhatBird - Swamp Sparrow

3) Audubon Guide - Swamp Sparrow

Photo Information: September 17th, 2004 -- Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls -- Canon 300D, 400 5.6L lens

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Swamp Sparrow photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view

Swamp Sparrow - North American Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant and summer resident in the eastern part of South Dakota.  Casual migrant and accidental summer visitor in the western part of the state.

Additional Swamp Sparrow Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Swamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgianaSwamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgianaSwamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgianaSwamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgianaSwamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgianaSwamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgianaSwamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgianaSwamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgianaSwamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgiana