Day 46 of 100 Days of Blogging

A sparrow that sings in the moonlight seems like the perfect Sparrow of the Week given all the Supermoon hype at the moment! 

Like the previous sparrows in our series, the Swamp Sparrow is one of the 13 breeding sparrow species on the PQSPB checklist. So far we have covered the Chipping Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Nelson’s Sparrow and the White-throated Sparrow in the countdown to the 100th year anniversary. 

Sparrow of the Week #6

Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)

Family: Emberizidae French: Bruant des marais

#1. The Swamp Sparrow is a medium-sized sparrow that breeds across the boreal forests of Canada and the northern United States . 

#2. The song of the Swamp Sparrow is a slow trill and males have occasionally been heard singing during the night. One researcher reported a male singing at 02:30 AM on a moonlit night. 

For the best effect, when you play the song file, imagine him perched and silhouetted on a tall tree as he sings by the light of a silvery moon!

#3. According to the Boreal Songbird Initiative an estimated 79% of the North American Swamp Sparrow population breeds within the Boreal Forest.

#4. This sparrow is aptly named since it breeds in swampy habitat such as freshwater cattail marshes, brushy meadows, bogs, sedge, swamps, and brackish marshes.

#5. Nest flooding resulting in the loss of entire clutches is a risk faced by these sparrows since nests are placed just above the ground or water’s surface. Presumably, the placement of the nest is a trade-off for safety from nest predation.

#6. This sparrow mostly forages on the ground near the water’s edge, in shallow water or in marsh vegetation. Fruit and seeds make up its diet during winter but during the breeding season it scratches and thrashes in leaves for arthropods.

#7. The Swamp Sparrow will do whatever it can to catch aquatic insects, even if it means sticking its head underwater! These birds have been observed doing so while standing on a stalk of grass and going after prey in the water.

#8. The Swamp Sparrow was first described by John Latham in 1790 and gets the Latin part of its name, georgiana, from the state of Georgia where the specimen he used for his description was collected. (“Collected” of course means acquired  with the help of a shotgun, as described in a couple of earlier blog posts. Please read  Outrageous Facts in Bird Conservation History – Part 1and Part 2 for more on the early days of ornithology in North America.

#9. Small populations are believed to remain year-round on the southern edge of their breeding range, but most birds are migratory and move to the southeastern United States.

#10. According to the North American breeding Bird Survey, this specie’s population is stable. However, wetland conservation is important for ensuring healthy population numbers in the future.