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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 10 years (wild) Observations: In the wild these animals may live up to 10 years (http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/). The subspecies *Ammodramus caudacutus nelsoni* is classified by some authors as a separate species.
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Biology

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Although it will make short flights, the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow is most commonly encountered walking, running and hopping along the ground as it forages amongst the dense stands of saltmarsh vegetation for insects, spiders, marine invertebrates and seeds (4) (5). The male saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow is promiscuous and sings throughout the nesting period, from mid-May to early August, in order to attract females (4). After mating, the female uses dry grass and seaweed to construct a cup-like nest that is attached to shrubs or grass stems, six to fifteen centimetres above the ground. The female carries out all parental care, incubating the clutch of three to five eggs for 11 to 12 days, and subsequently providing food for the chicks (2) (4). Because saltmarshes along the east coast of the U.S.A. experience a monthly flood tide, the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow must either place its nest well above the highest water level, or complete its reproductive cycle, from egg laying to fledging, in the period between successive flood tides (7).
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Conservation

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As part of a joint project between the bird conservation organisation, Audubon Connecticut, and the University of Connecticut, research is currently being conducted into the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow's biology, so that an effective conservation strategy can be developed (4). In addition, the potential effects of climate change and rising sea-level on this species are being studied (2). A number of National Wildlife Refuges support populations of the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow, thereby ensuring that this species remains protected from the extensive habitat loss occurring throughout its range (4).
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Description

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Despite its distinctive appearance, the quiet song and secretive behaviour of the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow mean that it can easily go unnoticed in its saltmarsh habitat (3). The head is boldly patterned, with grey cheeks flanked by bright orange stripes, and a grey crown extending down to the nape (2) (4). The upperparts are streaked blackish-brown and white, while the breast and underparts are white, with dark streaking along the flanks and upper breast (2). The tail is short and, as this species' name suggests, has sharply pointed feathers. Juveniles have pale brown plumage across the face and chest, with dark streaks along the chest and flanks (5). A very soft, whisper-like song, ts-ts-ssss-tsik, is produced by the adult male (4).
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Habitat

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One of the few bird species that has evolved to live only in saltmarshes (6), the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow is found in tidal, coastal marshland, where it lives amongst saltwater-tolerant grass species such as cordgrass, blackgrass and saltmeadow grass (2).
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Range

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Occupying a narrow region along the east coast of the U.S.A., the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow occurs from Maine, south to North Carolina. In the winter this species' range shifts southward, with its southern limit in Florida and northern limit in Maryland (2).
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Status

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Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).
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Threats

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Due to the high levels of development along the east coast of the U.S.A., there is limited saltmarsh habitat available for the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow, and its range is patchy (2) (4). In addition to habitat destruction, the remaining fragmented areas of saltmarsh are becoming increasingly degraded by pollution (4) (8), and the invasion of non-native plant species (4) (9). A major threat to this species in the future is likely to be the rise of sea-level due to climate change (2).
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Ammodramus caudacutus

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The Saltmarsh Sparrow is a relatively recent addition to field guides to the birds of North America. This species, formerly known as the Sharp-tailed Sparrow, was recently split into two new species: today’s Saltmarsh Sparrow and Nelson’s Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni). This is a medium-sized (5 1/2 inches) sparrow species characterized by a gray back and white breast streaked with black, tail-feathers with jagged edges, and golden face with gray cheek-patch. The Saltmarsh Sparrow is made up of two subspecies, one of which breeds from the Canadian Maritime Provinces south to New England and the other of which breeds in the Mid-Atlantic region south to the Chesapeake Bay. The Mid-Atlantic subspecies lives in this region all year, but individuals of both subspecies migrate further south along the coast in winter, where they may be found from North Carolina to Florida. As its name might suggest, this sparrow inhabits the outer fringes of salt marshes, where it eats insects and larvae off the blades and stalks of marsh grasses. This species has an unusually short breeding cycle, progressing from egg-laying to fledging in less than 28 days. This fast-paced cycle allows chicks to be reared between spring (or ‘highest of the high’) tides, which flood this species’ breeding sites approximately once a month. Saltmarsh Sparrows are most easily observed foraging near the tops of marsh grasses. They may also be seen flying short distances above the grass between feeding areas. This species is primarily active during the day.

Threat Status: Vulnerable

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Smithsonian Institution
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Reid Rumelt

Ammodramus caudacutus

provided by EOL authors

The Saltmarsh Sparrow is a relatively recent addition to field guides to the birds of North America. This species, formerly known as the Sharp-tailed Sparrow, was recently split into two new species: today’s Saltmarsh Sparrow and Nelson’s Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni). This is a medium-sized (5 1/2 inches) sparrow species characterized by a gray back and white breast streaked with black, tail-feathers with jagged edges, and golden face with gray cheek-patch. The Saltmarsh Sparrow is made up of two subspecies, one of which breeds from the Canadian Maritime Provinces south to New England and the other of which breeds in the Mid-Atlantic region south to the Chesapeake Bay. The Mid-Atlantic subspecies lives in this region all year, but individuals of both subspecies migrate further south along the coast in winter, where they may be found from North Carolina to Florida. As its name might suggest, this sparrow inhabits the outer fringes of salt marshes, where it eats insects and larvae off the blades and stalks of marsh grasses. This species has an unusually short breeding cycle, progressing from egg-laying to fledging in less than 28 days. This fast-paced cycle allows chicks to be reared between spring (or ‘highest of the high’) tides, which flood this species’ breeding sites approximately once a month. Saltmarsh Sparrows are most easily observed foraging near the tops of marsh grasses. They may also be seen flying short distances above the grass between feeding areas. This species is primarily active during the day.

References

  • Ammodramus caudacutus. Xeno-canto. Xeno-canto Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012.
  • Greenlaw, Jon S. and James D. Rising. 1994. Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/112
  • Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus). The Internet Bird Collection. Lynx Edicions, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012.
  • eBird Range Map - Saltmarsh Sparrow. eBird. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, N.d. Web. 20 July 2012.

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Rumelt, Reid B. Ammodramus caudacutus. June-July 2012. Brief natural history summary of Ammodramus caudacutus. Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
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Saltmarsh sparrow

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The saltmarsh sparrow (Ammospiza caudacutus) is a small American sparrow found in salt marshes along the Atlantic coast of the United States. At one time, this bird and the Nelson's sparrow were thought to be a single species, the sharp-tailed sparrow. Because of this, the species was briefly known as the "saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow."

This bird's numbers are declining due to habitat loss largely attributed to human activity.

Description

The saltmarsh sparrow measures 11–14 cm (4.3–5.5 in) in length, has a wingspan of 17.8–21 cm (7.0–8.3 in), and weighs 14–23.1 g (0.49–0.81 oz).[2][3] Adults have brownish upperparts with a gray nape, white throat and belly, and pale orange breast and sides with brown streaking. The face is orange with gray cheeks, a gray median crown stripe, brown lateral crown stripes, and a brown eyeline. The tail feathers are short and sharply pointed.[4]

Distinguishing this species from closely related sparrows such as the Nelson's sparrow can be difficult. The inland subspecies of the Nelson's sparrow can be differentiated by its fainter streaking and brighter orange breast and sides, while the coastal subspecies of the Nelson's sparrow can be differentiated by its paler, less-contrasting plumage. The saltmarsh sparrow also has a slightly longer beak than the Nelson's sparrow.[4]

Taxonomy

The species name caudacutus is Latin for "sharp-tailed." [5] Its closest relatives are the Nelson's sparrow (Ammospiza nelsoni) and the Seaside sparrow (Ammospiza maritimus).[6][7]

The saltmarsh sparrow and the Nelson's sparrow were once thought to be a single species, called the sharp-tailed sparrow. Mitochondrial DNA evidence suggests that the two species diverged about 600,000 years ago.[8] A Pleistocene glaciation is thought to have separated the ancestral sharp-tailed sparrow into inland and coastal populations. The inland Nelson's sparrow became a specialist of non-tidal freshwater wetlands while the coastal saltmarsh sparrow became a specialist of tidal salt marshes.[9] Recently, the Nelson's sparrow has expanded its range to include coastal salt marshes, and interbreeding occurs where the two species overlap.[10][11]

The saltmarsh sparrow is divided into two subspecies. The northern subspecies, A. caudacutus caudacutus, breeds from Maine to New Jersey, while the southern subspecies, A. caudacutus diversus, breeds in Maryland and Virginia. A. c. diversus has more contrasting striping on its back and a darker crown than A. c. caudacutus.[12]

Habitat and Distribution

The saltmarsh sparrow is only found in tidal salt marshes along the Atlantic coast of the United States. It breeds along the northern coast, from Maine to the Chesapeake Bay, and winters along the southern coast, from North Carolina to Florida.[13] The saltmarsh sparrow prefers high marsh habitat, dominated by saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens) and saltmarsh rush (Juncus gerardii), which does not flood as frequently as low marsh.[14]

Behavior

Vocalizations

Only males sing.[13] The song is a complex series of raspy, barely audible buzzes, trills, and gurgles. It is distinguishable from that of the Nelson's sparrow, which is a louder, hissing buzz followed by a buzzy chip. The high-pitched contact calls of both species are indistinguishable.[4]

Diet

The saltmarsh sparrow forages on the ground along tidal channels or in marsh vegetation, sometimes probing in the mud at low tide. Over 80% of its diet consists of flies, amphipods, grasshoppers, and moths, especially larval, pupal, and adult soldier flies.[15] During the winter, it also eats seeds.[13] The saltmarsh sparrow is an opportunistic feeder and food is rarely limiting.[15]

Reproduction

Saltmarsh sparrows are non-territorial and have large overlapping home ranges. Male home ranges are twice as large as those of females and may span 50 ha (124 ac).[16]

Saltmarsh sparrows are promiscuous, and the majority of broods exhibit mixed parentage.[17] During the nesting season, males roam long distances chasing and mounting females regardless of receptivity. Only females exhibit parental care, building the nest, incubating the eggs, and providing food to the young.[9] The nest is an open cup constructed of grass, usually attached to saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens) or saltmarsh rush (Juncus gerardii) at a height of 6–15 cm (2.4–5.9 in). Clutch size is 3 to 5. Incubation begins after the last egg is laid and takes 11–12 days. Young fledge 8–11 days after hatching but remain dependent on the mother for an additional 15–20 days.[13]

The primary cause of nest mortality is flooding due to storm surges and periodic, exceptionally high spring tides which occur every 28 days during the new moon. The saltmarsh sparrow exhibits several adaptations to flooding, including nest repair, egg retrieval, rapid re-nesting, and synchronization of breeding with the lunar cycle.[18][19] Nesting begins immediately following a spring tide, allowing young to fledge before the next spring tide.[19] Two broods are typically raised per breeding season.[13]

Conservation status

The saltmarsh sparrow is of high conservation concern due to habitat loss resulting in small fragmented populations.[13][20] Salt marshes are one of the most threatened habitats worldwide due to their limited natural extent, long history of human modification, and anticipated sea level rise.[21] The spread of the invasive reed Phragmites has also contributed to habitat loss.[22] The saltmarsh sparrow is very sensitive to sea level rise because of the role of flooding in nest mortality.[23] In addition, the saltmarsh sparrow is particularly susceptible to mercury bioaccumulation, but the effects of this on survival are unclear.[24][25][26]

Saltmarsh sparrow populations declined between 5% and 9% per year between the 1990s and 2010s, resulting in a total decline of over 75%.[13][27] Without management intervention, the saltmarsh sparrow is projected to become extinct by 2050.[13] The saltmarsh sparrow was listed on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List with a concern score of 19 out of 20,[28] and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently undertaking a status review to determine whether the species should be listed under the Endangered Species Act.[29] Its total population was estimated to be 53,000 in 2016.[30]

References

  1. ^ BirdLife International. 2018. Ammospiza caudacuta. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22721129A131887480. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22721129A131887480.en. Downloaded on 31 December 2018.
  2. ^ "Saltmarsh Sparrow, Life History, All About Birds - Cornell Lab of Ornithology". Allaboutbirds.org. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
  3. ^ CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses by John B. Dunning Jr. (Editor). CRC Press (1992), ISBN 978-0849342585.
  4. ^ a b c 1961-, Sibley, David (2003). The Sibley field guide to birds of eastern North America (1st ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780679451204. OCLC 52075784.
  5. ^ Beedy, Edward C.; Pandolfino, Edward R. (2013-06-17). Birds of the Sierra Nevada: Their Natural History, Status, and Distribution. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520274938.
  6. ^ Robins, Jerome D.; Schnell, Gary D. (1971). "Skeletal Analysis of the Ammodramus-ammospiza Grassland Sparrow Complex: A Numerical Taxonomic Study". The Auk. 88 (3): 567–590. JSTOR 4083751.
  7. ^ Zink, Robert M.; Avise, John C. (1990-06-01). "Patterns of Mitochondrial DNA and Allozyme Evolution in the Avian Genus Ammodramus". Systematic Zoology. 39 (2): 148–161. doi:10.2307/2992452. ISSN 1063-5157. JSTOR 2992452.
  8. ^ Rising, James D.; Avise, John C. (1993). "Application of Genealogical-Concordance Principles to the Taxonomy and Evolutionary History of the Sharp-Tailed Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus)". The Auk. 110 (4): 844–856. doi:10.2307/4088638. JSTOR 4088638.
  9. ^ a b Greenlaw, Jon S. (1993). "Behavioral and Morphological Diversification in Sharp-Tailed Sparrows (Ammodramus caudacutus) of the Atlantic Coast". The Auk. 110 (2): 286–303. JSTOR 4088557.
  10. ^ Shriver, W. Gregory; Gibbs, James P.; Vickery, Peter D.; Gibbs, H. Lisle; Hodgman, Thomas P.; Jones, Peter T.; Jacques, Christopher N.; Fleischer, R. C. (2005-01-01). "Concordance between morphological and molecular markers in assessing hybridization between sharp-tailed sparrows in new england". The Auk. 122 (1): 94–107. doi:10.1642/0004-8038(2005)122[0094:CBMAMM]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 0004-8038.
  11. ^ Walsh, Jennifer; Kovach, Adrienne I.; Lane, Oksana P.; O'Brien, Kathleen M.; Babbitt, Kimberly J. (2011-05-19). "Genetic Barcode RFLP Analysis of the Nelson's and Saltmarsh Sparrow Hybrid Zone". The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. 123 (2): 316–322. doi:10.1676/10-134.1. ISSN 1559-4491.
  12. ^ Smith, Fletcher M. (2011). "Photo Essay: Subspecies of Saltmarsh Sparrow and Nelson's Sparrow" (PDF). North American Birds. 65 (2): 368–377.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h GREENLAW, JON S.; RISING, JAMES D. (1994). "Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus)". The Birds of North America Online. doi:10.2173/bna.112.
  14. ^ Greenlaw, Jon S.; Woolfenden, Glen E. (2007-09-01). "Wintering distributions and migration of saltmarsh and nelson's sharp-tailed sparrows". The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. 119 (3): 361–377. doi:10.1676/05-152.1. ISSN 1559-4491.
  15. ^ a b Post, William; Greenlaw, Jon S. (2006-10-01). "Nestling diets of coexisting salt marsh sparrows: Opportunism in a food-rich environment". Estuaries and Coasts. 29 (5): 765–775. doi:10.1007/BF02786527. ISSN 1559-2723.
  16. ^ Shriver, W. Gregory; Hodgman, Thomas P.; Gibbs, James P.; Vickery, Peter D. (2010-05-12). "Home Range Sizes and Habitat Use of Nelson's and Saltmarsh Sparrows". The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. 122 (2): 340–345. doi:10.1676/09-149.1. ISSN 1559-4491.
  17. ^ Hill, Christopher E.; Gjerdrum, Carina; Elphick, Chris S. (2010-04-01). "Extreme Levels of Multiple Mating Characterize the Mating System of the Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus)". The Auk. 127 (2): 300–307. doi:10.1525/auk.2009.09055. ISSN 0004-8038.
  18. ^ Gjerdrum, Carina; Elphick, Chris S.; Rubega, Margaret (2005-11-01). "Nest site selection and nesting success in saltmarsh breeding sparrows: the importance of nest habitat, timing, and study site differences". The Condor. 107 (4): 849–862. doi:10.1650/7723.1. ISSN 0010-5422.
  19. ^ a b Shriver, W. Gregory; Vickery, Peter D.; Hodgman, Thomas P.; Gibbs, James P.; Sandercock, B. K. (2007-04-01). "Flood tides affect breeding ecology of two sympatric sharp-tailed sparrows". The Auk. 124 (2): 552–560. doi:10.1642/0004-8038(2007)124[552:FTABEO]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 0004-8038.
  20. ^ DiQuinzio, Deborah A.; Paton, Peter W. C.; Eddleman, William R.; Brawn, J. (2001-10-01). "Site fidelity, philopatry, and survival of promiscuous saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrows in rhode island". The Auk. 118 (4): 888–899. doi:10.1642/0004-8038(2001)118[0888:SFPASO]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 0004-8038.
  21. ^ Gedan, K. Bromberg; Silliman, B. R.; Bertness, M. D. (2009). "Centuries of Human-Driven Change in Salt Marsh Ecosystems". Annual Review of Marine Science. 1 (1): 117–141. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.319.6842. doi:10.1146/annurev.marine.010908.163930. PMID 21141032.
  22. ^ Benoit, Lori K.; Askins, Robert A. (1999-03-01). "Impact of the spread ofPhragmites on the distribution of birds in Connecticut tidal marshes". Wetlands. 19 (1): 194–208. doi:10.1007/BF03161749. ISSN 0277-5212.
  23. ^ Bayard, Trina S.; Elphick, Chris S. (2011-04-01). "Planning for Sea-Level Rise: Quantifying Patterns of Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus Caudacutus) Nest Flooding Under Current Sea-Level Conditions". The Auk. 128 (2): 393–403. doi:10.1525/auk.2011.10178. ISSN 0004-8038.
  24. ^ Lane, Oksana P.; O’Brien, Kathleen M.; Evers, David C.; Hodgman, Thomas P.; Major, Andrew; Pau, Nancy; Ducey, Mark J.; Taylor, Robert; Perry, Deborah (2011-11-01). "Mercury in breeding saltmarsh sparrows (Ammodramus caudacutus caudacutus)". Ecotoxicology. 20 (8): 1984–91. doi:10.1007/s10646-011-0740-z. ISSN 0963-9292. PMID 21792662.
  25. ^ Cristol, Daniel A.; Smith, Fletcher M.; Varian-Ramos, Claire W.; Watts, Bryan D. (2011-11-01). "Mercury levels of Nelson's and saltmarsh sparrows at wintering grounds in Virginia, USA". Ecotoxicology. 20 (8): 1773–1779. doi:10.1007/s10646-011-0710-5. ISSN 0963-9292. PMID 21698442.
  26. ^ Winder, Virginia L. (2012-09-04). "Characterization of Mercury and Its Risk in Nelson's, Saltmarsh, and Seaside Sparrows". PLOS ONE. 7 (9): e44446. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044446. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 3433451. PMID 22962614.
  27. ^ Shriver, W. Gregory; O’Brien, Kathleen M.; Ducey, Mark J.; Hodgman, Thomas P. (2016-01-01). "Population abundance and trends of Saltmarsh (Ammodramus caudacutus) and Nelson's (A. nelsoni) Sparrows: influence of sea levels and precipitation". Journal of Ornithology. 157 (1): 189–200. doi:10.1007/s10336-015-1266-6. ISSN 2193-7192.
  28. ^ "Species Assessment Summary and Watch List". State of North America's Birds 2016. Retrieved 2017-10-02.
  29. ^ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2017). "Sharp Tailed Saltmarsh Sparrow Peer Review Plan" (PDF).
  30. ^ Wiest, Whitney A.; Correll, Maureen D.; Olsen, Brian J.; Elphick, Chris S.; Hodgman, Thomas P.; Curson, David R.; Shriver, W. Gregory (2016-03-16). "Population estimates for tidal marsh birds of high conservation concern in the northeastern USA from a design-based survey". The Condor. 118 (2): 274–288. doi:10.1650/CONDOR-15-30.1. ISSN 0010-5422.
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Saltmarsh sparrow: Brief Summary

provided by wikipedia EN

The saltmarsh sparrow (Ammospiza caudacutus) is a small American sparrow found in salt marshes along the Atlantic coast of the United States. At one time, this bird and the Nelson's sparrow were thought to be a single species, the sharp-tailed sparrow. Because of this, the species was briefly known as the "saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow."

This bird's numbers are declining due to habitat loss largely attributed to human activity.

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