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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

Swamp Sparrow -- Melospiza georgiana

RANGE: Breeds from west-central and southern Mackenzie and northern Manitoba across to southern Labrador, and south to northeastern and east-central British Columbia, the Dakotas, northern Illinois, and Maryland. Winters from eastern Nebraska through the Great Lakes region to Massachusetts, south to Texas, the Gulf Coast, and Florida, and west across New Mexico to southeastern Arizona.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Wetlands with bushes, rank marsh grasses, sedges, and reeds are characteristic habitat. Inhabits brushy wet meadows, sloughs, bogs, swamps, freshwater marshes, along swampy shorelines of lakes or streams, and rarely in coastal brackish meadows. Avoids heavily wooded wetlands. In winter, frequents springs, seeps, and open brooks that have brushy cover nearby.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Swampy wetlands with rank emergent vegetation.

NEST: Often builds nest among cattail stalks, upon clumps of bent over vegetation, on sedge tussocks, or in bushes, frequently directly over water that may be 2 feet or more deep. Usually places nest about 12 inches above ground or water, preferably in areas with mixed vegetation rather than in pure cattails.

FOOD: Feeds mainly on insects in spring and early summer, and on the seeds of marsh plants in late summer and fall. Gleans food while wading in shallow water or from surrounding vegetation.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Low and Mansell 1983, Martin et al. 1951, Petersen in Farrand 1983, Wetherbee in Bent 1968c.

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