Nelson’s Sparrow

ANIMAL:
Nelson’s Sparrow Ammospiza nelsoni

Type of Animal:
Songbird

Habitat:
Marshes, wet meadows, freshwater wetlands w/ dense emergent vegetation, damp areas w/ dense grasses, sedge wetlands, wet prairies, rich fens w/ narrow-leaved sedges, farm fields

Location(s):
Found in Canada in S.C. Northwest Territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan, S & NE Manitoba, Hudson Bay area of Manitoba/Ontario/Quebec, SE coast of Canada, & SE Ontario. In US, found in E & SE coasts as well as W New York, N Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, E Texas, Dakotas, NE Montana, E Nebraska, E Kansas, E Oklahoma, W Tennessee, W Mississippi, & W Kentucky. Disjunct nonbreeding populations on California coast & in N Baja California.

Appearance:
Adults have brownish upperparts w/ gray crown/nape, cream-colored breast w/ light/indistinct streaking, white throat/belly, orange face, gray cheeks, short pointed tail. Interior breeding sparrows more colorful than coastal breeding sparrows.

Food/Diet:
Insects, insect larvae, spiders, seeds, grains, amphipods, snails, small crabs, marine worms

Status in Wild:
Stable

Conservation:
Habitat monitoring. Monitoring of Atlantic population which are vulnerable to rising sea levels & may number around 35,000 birds.

Lifestyle:
Found in small to medium-size flocks. Breed colonially. 

Additional Info:

Called:
Male: Cock
Female: Hen
Young: Chick
Group: Flock

Weight:
0.6-0.7 oz

Gestation:
2 weeks

Life Span:
6-7 years

Height:
4.3-5.1 in

Body Length:
4.3-5.1 in

Tail Length:
3 in

Main predators are mammals, larger birds, reptiles, & large fish.

These birds are rather secretive.

The song is a simple hiss or raspy trill akin to water sizzling in a frying pan.

Females raise 2 broods of 2-6 chicks each year.

Females build bulky open grass cup nests, usually close to ground.

Chicks stay w/ parents for 3-4 weeks.

While stable, these birds are vulnerable to rising water levels & habitat loss.

These birds are highly migratory.

They forage on the ground or among vegetation.

Also called Nelson’s Sharp-Tailed Sparrow.

They help control insect populations as well as play role as seed dispersers. 

Brown-headed cowbirds often parasitize nests of this species.

Maturity reached at 8-12 months.

Fun Fact(s):
Named after American naturalist Edward William Nelson.

A Criminal Minds episode was named after this bird due to each murder victim having an individual of this species placed on them.

These sparrows were once lumped w/ the Saltmarsh Sparrow as a single species known as the Sharp-Tailed Sparrow until 1995.

Unlike many songbirds, they run rather than fly from predators.
Nelson’s Sparrow, Morris Finkelstein

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