Birds of Seabrook Island

COAST BIRDS
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ANECDOTES

  Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow
 
 

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  Order Passeriformes
   Suborder Passeres - Oscines (Song Birds)
      Parvorder Passerida (Superfamily Passeroidea)
         Nine-primaried Oscines
            Family Emberizidae - New World Sparrows, Towhees, Juncos

  Passerines are generally smaller than non-passerines. They have a perching foot with three toes directed forward and the one backward with locking tendons to facilitate perching when their tendons are flexed. All passerines scratch by bringing the foot over the wing. Incubation ranges from 11 -21 days. Young hatch blind with little or no down and spend 10-15 days or so in the nest - development is rapid and parents provide care beyond fledging.
Oscines are passerines with complex syringeal musculature used to produce varied vocalizations. 
Passeroids include the Nine-primaried Oscines, pipits, Old World sparrows, and weavers.
Nine-primaried Oscines include New World warblers, icterids (New World blackbirds), emberizines (buntings), tanagers, cardinalines (cardinals), and fringillines (finches).
Emberizines are primarily New World seed-eaters with a conical bill and dull, streaked plumage. They belong to our nine-primaried assemblage of families. When they forage on the ground, they are able to scratch using both legs at once ("hopping" to clear leaves or debris to reach food). They have loud songs that aid in their location and identification.
Short-tailed Sparrows  (Ammodramus). This genus has 9 species, 7 reaching the United States. They are best identified during the breeding season when males sing from exposed perches. They forage on the ground in dense grass and are only seen if flushed, perching momentarily then diving back into dense cover. They are silent when flushed. They typically do not flock. They have relatively flat heads, large bills, and short tails. They are slightly smaller than Savannah Sparrows but have a short tail and appear chunky. Their songs are wheezy or whispering.
 
Sharp-tailed Sparrows
 
     
  □ Saltmarsh (Sharp-tailed) Sparrow, Ammodramus caudacutus
 
    Cornell     USGS     Wiki     EoL
 

      WINTER - Fairly common / Rare
            SALT MARSHES (adjacent fields)

 
 
   The Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow has a pale buffy breast with distinct dark streaks. Its transition to the white belly is poorly defined. Streaks on the flank are black. The bill is relatively long. The orange malar swatch of color is brighter than the wash of the breast (they are about the same in Nelson's).
They also show a "mouse-like run" when disturbed and undergo two complete molts/year.
 
       
  RANGE: This species breeds from Virginia north in our coastal salt marshes to New England (southern Maine). It winters along the Atlantic from New York to Florida.
  BREEDING: Promiscuous. Females build a nest that is often suspended a few inches by sedges or grass - it is usually well concealed. She lays 3-5 (2-7) eggs which she incubates for 11-12 days. Young are altricial and fledge after 8-11 days and may remain with the female for another 2-3 weeks. Young are fed by the female alone.
   They may also breed colonially (up to 20 pairs) and males don't defend an exclusive territory.
  DIET: These sharpies eat insects, spiders, amphipods, snails, and a variety of seeds. Much of their winter food is of animal origin. They forage on the ground or climbing around marsh plants. They pick items from the surface and sometimes probe in mud.
  VOICE: Their song is softer than Nelson's and is less frequently heard.
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Kiawah
- occasional, fall through spring.
      Coastal - fairly common winter visitor. Huntington Beach - common October - April; uncommon May.
   Kiawah Island banding - Capn' Sam's spit - 58 2011-12
   CBC: Charleston 0, 0, 6, 13, 11, 0, 4, 8;
            Hilton Head 25, 1, 4, 2, 3, 0, 6, 1; Sun City/Okatie 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 10, 0;
            McClellanville 1, 1, 8, 0, nc, 1, 8, 2; Winyah Bay x, x, 0. 6, 0, 0, 4, 0;  Litchfield/Pawley's 0, 11, 0, 0, 0, 4, 2, CW.
   P&G: Common fall migrant and fairly common winter visitor in tidal marshes. 19 September - 29 May. Unrecorded away from the coast (3 records in Clemson and Caesar's Head). Maximum: 38, McClellanville.
   Avendex: No records.
   Potter: Likely nests in northeastern NC. See comments for Nelson's.
  ●  Try marsh borders in low brush or cord grass itself. Secretive. Rare winter visitor.
       
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