Swamp Sparrow

Melospiza georgiana
Swamp Sparrow specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (5-5 ¾ inches) bunting, the Swamp Sparrow is most easily identified by mottled-brown back, gray breast, white throat, and reddish-brown cap. Other field marks include dull pink legs, a squared-off tail, and a gray, conical bill. Male and female Swamp Sparrows are similar to one another in all seasons. The Swamp Sparrow breeds across a wide area of southern Canada and the northern United States. In winter, this species vacates much of the northern part of its breeding range, wintering in the southeastern U.S., along the Pacific coast from Vancouver Island to southern California, in the desert southwest, and in northern Mexico. Swamp Sparrows are present all year in portions of the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, but birds which breed here are displaced south in winter by more northerly-breeding populations. As might be expected, Swamp Sparrows breed in a variety of freshwater wetland habitats, including swamps. This species utilizes similar kinds of wet habitats during the winter. Swamp Sparrows primarily eat insects in summer, but switch to seeds, berries, and fruits in winter when insects may be unavailable. In appropriate habitat, Swamp Sparrows may most easily be seen foraging for food along the water’s edge. There, individuals may be seen picking food off of the mud or, unusually for a songbird, will wade in the water to find prey. Males may also be observed singing this species’ trilling song from prominent perches. Swamp Sparrows are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Common year-round resident in marshes and sedge meadows. Represented here by summer and winter populations. The sexes are alike.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC17141 Melospiza georgiana (Swamp Sparrow)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC17142 Melospiza georgiana (Swamp Sparrow)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31088 Melospiza georgiana (Swamp Sparrow)