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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Sharp-tailed Sparrow -- Ammodramus caudacutus

RANGE: Breeds from east-central British Columbia, southern Mackenzie, and central Manitoba south to south-central Alberta, southeastern South Dakota, and northwestern Minnesota; also around James Bay, in southeastern Quebec, and along the Atlantic Coast from eastern Quebec south to North Carolina. Winters along the Atlantic Coast from New York south to Florida, the Gulf Coast west to Texas, and rarely in coastal California.

STATUS: Common along the coast, locally common inland.

HABITAT: In coastal areas, prefers short grasses in drier sections of salt or brackish marshes, especially where marshhay cordgrass and seashore saltgrass are present. Inland races inhabit freshwater marshes, marshy zones of prairie lakes and ponds, wet meadows, sloughs, and alkaline, hummocky fens.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Well-drained sections of wetland with grassy or other herbaceous vegetation.

NEST: In coastal areas, builds nest in higher regions of marshes seldom flooded by tides, salt hay meadows, or the zone between marsh and upland. Elevates and conceals nest just above ground, sometimes attached to upright plant stems or placed in thick clumps of grass. Inland, nests are usually sunken in the ground but occasionally elevated.

FOOD: Forages on the banks of pools and creeks, gleaning primarily insects and small aquatic animals, but also seeds of grasses and weeds from the ground and low vegetation. Generally feeds throughout the marsh, although in coastal areas, prefers to forage in grass that is dense and matted.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Hill in Bent 1968b, Johnsgard 1979, Low and Mansell 1983, Murray 1969, Woolfenden 1956.

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