Savannah Sparrow

Passerculus sandwichensis

Last updated: May 23, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit FotoRequest/Shutterstock.com

The Savannah sparrow gets its name because one of the first of this type of bird was found in the city of Savannah, Georgia.

Savannah Sparrow Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Passeriformes
Family
Passerellidae
Genus
Passerculus
Scientific Name
Passerculus sandwichensis

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Savannah Sparrow Conservation Status

Savannah Sparrow Locations

Savannah Sparrow Locations

Savannah Sparrow Facts

Prey
Flies, caterpillars, beetles
Name Of Young
Chicks
Fun Fact
The Savannah sparrow gets its name because one of the first of this type of bird was found in the city of Savannah, Georgia.
Estimated Population Size
170,000,000
Biggest Threat
Environmental loss and ingesting insecticide
Most Distinctive Feature
A yellow stripe over its eyes
Distinctive Feature
Its breast is white with dark streaks
Incubation Period
10 - 13 days
Age Of Independence
Approximately 21 days
Age Of Fledgling
3 weeks
Habitat
Open fields, prairies, meadows, and salt marshes
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Flock
Common Name
Savannah Sparrow
Nesting Location
On the ground beneath decaying vegetable matter

Savannah Sparrow Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Yellow
  • White
  • Tan
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
2 - 6 years
Weight
.53 - 1 oz.
Length
4 - 7 inches

This post may contain affiliate links to our partners like Chewy, Amazon, and others. Purchasing through these helps us further the A-Z Animals mission to educate about the world's species..

View all of the Savannah Sparrow images!



The call of a Savannah sparrow sounds a lot like an insect buzzing.

Savannah sparrows are small, lively birds found throughout North America. They eat beetles, caterpillars, flies, and other insects as well as seeds. This bird is known for the yellow stripe above each of its eyes. There are 17 subspecies of this sparrow.

3 Amazing Facts

  1. This bird was first recorded in Savannah, Georgia
  2. It is a fast runner
  3. It is one of many sparrows that spend the summer season in Maine

Where to Find Savannah Sparrows

These sparrows live throughout North America specifically in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The best time to see these birds is in the spring season.

Someone living in the midwestern United States is likely to see a lot of these birds beginning in late February as they prepare to breed. Someone in a northern state such as Alaska is likely to spot these birds in late May for the beginning of their breeding season. Maine is a popular place for these sparrows along with many other types of sparrows in the summertime.

Grasslands, meadows, and prairies are the best places to observe these birds. Their habitat has a temperate to tropical climate. Bird watchers appreciate these birds because they can be found perching out in the open. Plus, they have a distinctive call that sounds like tsip-tsip-tsip.

Nests

Once a male establishes his territory, his unique call signals other males to stay away. These birds build their nests on the ground. They position the nest within or under a gathering of decaying vegetation. The entrance to the nesting area takes the shape of a tunnel. The nest itself is built by the female sparrow and has a cup-like shape. It’s made of twigs featuring a lining of grass.

Scientific Name

The Savannah sparrow’s scientific name is Passerculus sandwichensis. The Savannah sparrow gets its name because one of the first of this type of bird was found in the city of Savannah, Georgia. It’s in the Passerellidae family and the class Aves.

There are 17 subspecies of this bird. Some of these are:

  • Passerculus sandwichensis labradorius
  • Passerculus sandwichensis oblitus
  • Passerculus sandwichensis brooksi

Size, Appearance & Behavior

These birds have a mixture of dark brown, tan, and gray feathers on their wings. Its breast is white with dark streaks. It’s notable for having a yellow stripe above each eye.

This bird ranges from four to seven inches in length. Its weight range is .53 ounces up to one ounce. This bird’s wingspan is seven to nine inches.

Its dark feathers help it to blend in with the vegetation in its habitat. This small bird can fly at speeds of up to 50mph so it can sometimes escape predators.

A Savannah Sparrow on a wooden fence post
Savannah Sparrows have a telltale yellow streak in front of their eyes

Paul Reeves Photography/Shutterstock.com

Migration Pattern & Timing

Some of these sparrows stay in the same area year-round while others migrate.

Some of these birds living on the coasts of California and Mexico remain there all year. Alternatively, Savannah sparrows living in areas of the eastern part of the United States such as Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire spend the summer in those states. However, they move further south in the fall season, so they can winter in warmer locations.

The spring breeding season for this bird begins in late February. Those that migrate south for the winter begin their flight sometime in September.

Savannah Sparrow vs Song Sparrow

A quick glance at these two birds may fool you into thinking you’re seeing the same sparrow. But, while they share some commonalities, the Savannah sparrow and the song sparrow have many differences.

One of their similarities relates to their size. Both sparrows can be up to seven inches long and weigh up to one ounce. Plus, they both have a white breast featuring dark streaks or spots. Their wings display very similar coloration with brown or gray feathers streaked with a darker brown or black. As a note, if you see a yellow stripe above each eye, it’s a Savannah sparrow.

Another similarity is these sparrows both make their home in North America. Both birds reside in certain states throughout the year while others migrate when the weather turns cold.

When it comes to differences, one of the main ones has to do with habitat. These birds live in prairies, meadows, grasslands, and salt marshes. Alternatively, song sparrows have a wider range of habitats from deserts to city parks. So, you’re more likely to see a song sparrow in your backyard.

A second difference has to do with their songs. A Savannah sparrow makes a tsip-tsip call while a song sparrow’s call sounds more like chimp-chimp.

Diet

These sparrows are omnivores. Whether they eat more vegetation or insects depends on the time of year.

What does a Savannah sparrow eat?

These birds eat beetles, caterpillars, flies, and seeds. If this bird eats an insect that’s ingested poison, it can make the sparrow sick or kill it.

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

These tiny birds weigh a single ounce at their heaviest. So, it’s not surprising they have predators of many types.

What eats Savannah sparrows?

Snakes, birds of prey, and cats can eat Savannah sparrows. A snake can easily prey on a nest of Savannah sparrows because their nests are on the ground. Furthermore, birds of prey have no problem diving from high in the air to capture this sparrow.

Savannah sparrows are considered Least Concern by conservationists but are decreasing in number. This is likely due to the loss of their meadow and marsh habitats. Also, they sometimes ingest pesticides via the insects they eat.

Some protected areas have been set up for Savannah sparrows making it easier for them to breed.

Reproduction, Babies and Lifespan

Savannah sparrows start their breeding season in late February. While some of these sparrows form permanent pairs, other males mate with several females in the spring.

The male establishes a territory where the female builds the nest. It’s constructed beneath decaying plants.

Females can lay from two to six eggs, but most of these birds lay four. The eggs hatch in ten to 13 days. The female Savannah sparrow is usually the one to feed her young though sometimes the male helps. She has to eat a supply of food ten times her weight to have the energy for both herself and her chicks!

These sparrows feed and care for their chicks for three weeks. After that, the chicks can leave the nest to live independently.

Population

The population of this bird is estimated at 170,000,000 individuals. They are recorded as Least Concern but have a decreasing population.



View all 180 animals that start with S

About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

Savannah Sparrow FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What do Savannah Sparrows eat?

Savannah Sparrows are omnivorous. They eat flies, caterpillars, beetles, and seeds.

What are Savannah Sparrows' biggest threats?

The biggest threats to Savannah Sparrows are habitat loss and ingesting insects that have been exposed to pesticides.

How do I attract Savannah Sparrows to my bird feeder?

It’s unlikely that you will be able attract Savannah Sparrows to your bird feeder. These birds prefer more remote habitats like salt mashes, grasslands, meadows, and prairies. If you see a sparrow in your backyard, it is probably a different species such as a song sparrow.

Do Savannah Sparrows mate for life?

The answer to this is “sometimes.” Some Savannah Sparrows mate for life, but some males mate with a number of females.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Song_sparrow
  2. Missouri Department of Conservation, Available here: https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/savannah-sparrow
  3. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Available here: https://www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife/birds/grassland-and-shrub-birds/savannah-sparrow.html
  4. Maine Birds, Available here: https://web.colby.edu/mainebirds/2008/07/30/56/

Newly Added Animals

A Phorusrhacos
Phorusrhacos

It's a genus of terror birds

A Cabbage Moth
Cabbage Moth

Cabbage moths are named after the vegetable they find the tastiest.

Most Recently Updated Animals

A Halibut
Halibut

The word "halibut" is comes from haly meaning "holy" and butte meaning flat fish due to its popularity on Catholic holy days.

A Cichlid
Cichlid

There are more than 2 000 known species!

A Snow Crab
Snow Crab

Snow crabs communicate with each other by waving or drumming their pincers.