Comments: In general, few data exist on habitat requirements and they are not well quantified (Lowther et al. 1999). Partly open situations with scattered brush and trees, riparian thickets and brush, weedy and shrubby areas, woodland edges, yards and gardens in the southern U.S. Nests in bush or vine tangle, usually 1-2 meters up; sometimes in tree in thick Spanish moss at greater height (Harrison 1978). Western breeding populations use semi-open country with scattered trees and shrubs, riparian areas, abandoned farmland and other early successional stages (Parmalee 1959, AOU 1998).
In the Ouachitas of southwestern Arkansas, common in areas with a patchy mixture of open pasture and well-developed fencerows where farms are still small and family-run (J. Neal, pers. comm.). In southwest Missouri, 18 of 19 measured territories included predominantly old field vegetation (82 percent), with the remainder woodland (18 percent). Vegetative characteristics, however, varied widely between territories suggesting that a broad range of conditions are tolerated (Norris 1982, Norris and Elder 1982).
The southeastern coastal population uses a variety of habitats for breeding (Lanyon and Thompson 1986, Cox 1996, Meyers et al. 1999). While Meyers et al. (1999) found nesting success to be similar in beach shrub-scrub, managed pine-oak forest, and old growth oak forest, some forest-nesting individuals traveled up to 800 meters to feed in grassy or marshy openings, while shrub-scrub birds remained in core areas. Lanyon and Thompson (1986) determined that salt marsh/forest edge territories were preferred over interior forest, and concluded they were of higher quality.
Territory sizes measured include 1.13 hectares for one in Oklahoma (Parmalee 1959) and an average of 3.15 hectares on the edge of the range in Missouri (range 0.64-6.66 hectares, n = 19; Norris 1982, Norris and Elder 1982). Territories tend to be larger when there are no other territories adjoining (Norris 1982, Norris and Elder 1982), and smaller in high-quality habitat where territories are contiguous (Finke 1979, Lanyon and Thompson 1986). Males tend to return to nesting sites used in previous year (Lanyon and Thompson 1986).