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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

Savannah Sparrow -- Passerculus sandwichensis

RANGE: Breeds from Alaska and northern Yukon to northern Labrador and Newfoundland, south in coastal regions to west-central California, and in the interior to central California, northern New Mexico, Nebraska, Kentucky, and New Jersey. Winters from southern British Columbia and southern Nevada to southern Kentucky and, east of the Appalachians, from Massachusetts south into Mexico. Resident in coastal southern California.

STATUS: Common throughout its range, although the population is down in the western mountains.

HABITAT: Inhabits open wet areas with grass or grasslike vegetation. Occurs in hayfields, pastures, coastal and inland marshes, grassy dunes, wet meadow zones of ponds, lakes, and streams, prairies, open grasslands, bogs, open moist areas of mountain parks and meadows, and tundra.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Dense grassy or herbaceous vegetation of moderate height.

NEST: Places nest in a natural hollow or scratched-out depression in the ground, among thick herbaceous cover, usually well hidden, not only by the dense cover surrounding the nest but also by overhanging vegetation.

FOOD: During summer, mostly eats insects, concentrating primarily on beetles and grasshoppers; also consumes some spiders and snails and gleans a wide variety of seeds.

REFERENCES: Baird in Bent 1968b, DeGraff et al. 1980, Elliott in Bent 1968b, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, Potter 1972, Taber in Bent 1968b, Tate and Tate 1982, Welsh 1975.

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