Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis


4 ½ -5 ¼” (11 – 15cm) Small song bird brownish to greyish-brown overall. Streaked brownish above, heavily striped below. Tone varies greatly in different populations from dark brown with heavy ventral streaks to pale brown with paler ventral streaks. 17 subspecies have been identified.

Measurements Both Sexes:
Length 4.3–5.9 in 11–15 cm
Wingspan 7.9–8.7 in 20–22 cm
Weight 0.5–1 oz 15–28 g


heavily striped on breast and flanks, eyebrow stripe light to yellow wash on lores, short notched tail, pale median crown stripe, underparts whiter than most sparrows, legs usually pinkish
Adult Male: very little differential marking between adult male and female.

Adult female: similar to adult male.

Juvenile: Similar to adult, but buffier and with crown stripe indistinct.

Similar Species: Many birds of open country, including other sparrow species, are also brown and streaked.
• Vesper Sparrow has a bold white eye ring and white outer tail feathers.
• Song Sparrow is larger, with a longer tail, a rounded tail tip, and a thick mustache stripe. Shows large chest spot, but Savannah can show one too.
• Species of the genus Ammodramus, such as Grasshopper Sparrow and Baird's Sparrow, show buff tones in the face and breast, and have unnotched, often spiky tails.

Behavior: Habits: Hops, rarely walks, if flushed makes short zigzag, undulating flight revealing notched tail then drops down into meadow, sings from low perch.
Feeds mostly on the ground, generally alone or, during the nonbreeding season, in small flocks.
Voice: Song is a weak buzzy tsip tsip tsip see say or tsip, tsip tsip saay seee last note lower.

Habitat: Common and widespread in open grassy or weedy habitats, including marshes, fields and dunes, less numerous in brushy habitats. Often form loose flocks in winter. Range from northern Alaska and Canada south to Mexico and Guatemala with Northern populations being migratory.


In many parts of the species' range, especially in coastal areas and islands, Savannah Sparrows tend very strongly to return each year to the area where they hatched. This tendency, called natal philopatry, is the driving force for differentiation of numerous Savannah Sparrow subspecies.

Conservation Status:

In general, the Savannah Sparrow has probably expanded its range and thrived because of human-induced changes to the landscape. Coastal subspecies and other populations with narrow ranges may warrant special management priority because of their genetic distinctiveness and their limited habitats.
Capture Rates

The open habitat of Colony Farm provides breeding habitat for the Savannah Sparrow.

Capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) begin as individuals arrive from their wintering grounds. Numbers peak in September as young disperse and prepare to return to their wintering areas in the southern USA and Central America.


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