Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow
Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow
Photo Credit: Bill Horn
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ammodramus nelsoni (Allen)
OTHER NAMES: None.
DESCRIPTION: A relatively small (11-13 cm [4-5 in.]) perching bird (Greenlaw and Rising 1994). Distinguishing features include a buffy-orange eyebrow and malar stripe, a grayish ear patch, dark streaking on buffy-orange sides and breast, white belly, gray patch on each side of neck, and a brownish to grayish back with pale streaks (Sibley 1996). Males sing a short gasping song pshhhh’-ipt from conspicuous perches. Flight song and display also sometimes performed. Has recently been split taxonomically from the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow because of differences in morphology, song behavior, and DNA. Three subspecies recognized: A. n. nelsoni, A. n. alterus, and A. n. subvirgatus (Sibley 1996).
DISTRIBUTION: During breeding season, found along east coast from Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Quebec south to Massachusetts (A. n. subvirgatus); in wetland areas bordering parts of James Bay and Hudson Bay (A. n. alterus); and in the central Canadian prairies south to northeastern Montana, North Dakota, northeastern South Dakota, northwestern and central Minnesota (A. n. nelsoni). In winter, found along
HABITAT: During breeding season, prefers freshwater marshes, brackish marshes, wet meadows, idle fields, fens, peatlands, and lake margins. Breeding habitats often contain plants like cordgrass, sprangletop, reed, cattail, sloughgrass, sedges, smartweed, and bulrush (Dechant et al. 2001). In migration, may be found in wet fields and marshes. In winter, prefers freshwater, brackish, and saltwater marshes (Rising 1996).
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Arrives on breeding grounds late April to early June. Nests in colonies with home ranges of individuals overlapping. No evidence that a pair bond is formed. Females build nest, incubate eggs, and feed nestlings and fledglings. An open cup nest is built on or just above moist ground in areas usually with dense vegetation and litter from previous years. Clutch size typically three to five eggs, which are laid one per day and are green to bluish white with brownish flecks. Incubation and nestling periods about 11 and 10 days, respectively. Fledgling period about 20 days (Greenlaw and Rising 1994). Departure from breeding grounds begins in late August and most individuals leave by mid-October (Greenlaw and Rising 1994, Sibley 1996). Occurs in
BASIS FOR STATUS CLASSIFICATION: Partners In Flight (PIF) considers species to be of extremely high priority. In
Author: Thomas M. Haggerty