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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

Seaside Sparrow -- Ammodramus maritimus

RANGE: Breeds along the Atlantic Coast from Massachusetts south to northern Florida, and along the Gulf Coast from southern Texas east to western Florida. Winters throughout the breeding range to southern Florida, although most northern populations usually withdraw southward. Resident in southern and east-central Florida.

STATUS: Locally common, however the dusky race in east-central Florida is on the verge of extinction, and the Cape Sable race in southern Florida is endangered.

HABITAT: Inhabits short-grass tidal marshes and meadows (except for the Cape Sable race, which occurs in a narrow band of fresh and brackish marshes in southern Florida). Prefers rank stands of cordgrass along the borders of tidal creeks with muddy bottoms.


NEST: Builds nest above ground in cordgrass or rushes in wetter portions of salt marshes washed by the tide, on the ground in dense vegetation above the high tide mark, or in shrubs such as marsh-elders. Typically locates well-concealed nest up to a foot above ground. Generally, nests in wetter areas than the sharp-tailed sparrow.

FOOD: Eats mostly insects, crustaceans, and small marine life and some seeds of weeds and grasses. Prefers to forage in areas of open mud and smooth cordgrass along the edge of marshes, gleaning its prey from the ground and surrounding vegetation.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Petersen in Farrand 1983c, Sprunt in Bent 1968b, Stimson in Bent 1968b, Woolfenden 1956.

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