Bird Database

Savannah Sparrow

(Passerculus sandwichensis)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance




Habitat loss and fragmentation, Mowing

Conservation Actions

Time mowing of grassland habitats to minimize imacts on ground-nesting birds

Savannah Sparrow

(Passerculus sandwichensis)

The Savannah Sparrow is by far the most common of New Hampshire’s grassland birds. Although not as conspicuous as the Bobolink it often occurs at higher densities, and certainly uses a wider variety of habitats. Savannah Sparrows are equally at home at airports, hayfields, weedy edges to cornfields, and even the occasional grassy bog. Listen for their thin buzzy trill that starts with the notes spaced out, speeds up, and ends on a down note.

Some subspecies of Savannah Sparrow have taken this ability to use multiple habitats to the extreme. One on the west coast nests in salt marshes, while another is limited to dunes and heaths on a single island off Nova Scotia. The latter, named “Ipswich Sparrow” for where it was first discovered in Massachusetts, is larger and paler than other Savannahs and for a long time was considered a separate species. “Ipswich” Sparrows spend the winter in dunes from Nova Scotia to Florida but are concentrated in the mid-Atlantic states. Most years a few can be found along the New Hampshire coast, mainly in the dunes at Hampton Beach, but be aware that “regular” Savannah Sparrows are still more common than their paler cousins even at this time of year.

Like most grassland birds Savannah Sparrows are in decline, although at a slower rate than many other species. This might be due to their broader habitat tolerance, including the ability to nest in smaller patches of grasslands. They also probably benefit from a shorter nesting cycle and the ability to raise multiple broods in a single summer. In fall they join other sparrows in weedy fields and edges to partake in the abundant seeds, in the process providing an opportunity to practice sparrow identification. They are most similar to our other common streaked sparrow, the Song, but differ in being paler overall and more finely streaked. The clinching field mark, if you get a good look, is an area of yellow between the eye and bill that Song Sparrows always lack.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Savannah Sparrow
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count