Savannah Sparrow

(Passerculus sandwichensis)

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N5B, N5N - Secure Breeding and Nonbreeding

SNRB - Unranked Breeding


not listed


The underparts are white. The breast and flanks have thin brown or black streaks. The streaked breast has a dark central spot but the breast is not as streaked and the spot is not as strong as the Song Sparrow. The tail is notched. The bill is small. The area between the eye and the upper bill (lores) is yellow, though not as yellow or a prominent as the White-throated Sparrow.



5 to 6in length

6½ wingspan



Three or four high-pitched notes followed by a high insect-like buzz then a low trill, the whole series lasting just 2 or 3 seconds.


Similar Species

Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum) breast is washed with buff and is unstreaked.

Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) has a buff jaw line; a buff breast, sides, and flanks; and no yellow lores.

Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) has a chestnut shoulder patch, a longet tail, white outer tail feathers, a bold white eye ring, and no yellow lores.


Breeding: Sedge meadows, grass meadows, pastures, grassy roadsides, and agricultural fields with cover crops

Migration: Grassy roadsides



Early April to late October






In the summer, insects and spiders. In the winter, seeds.



Common to abundant migrant and breeder



The Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union All Seasons Species Occurrence Map



Aves (birds)


Passeriformes (perching birds)


Passerellidae (New World sparrows)


Passerculus (savannah sparrows)


New World sparrows were traditionally combined with buntings into the family Emberizidae. Recent phylogenetic analysis (Barker et al. 2013) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis (Klicka et al. 2014) found that the Old World buntings should be separated as a sister to New World sparrows. New World sparrows have been separated into a new family, Passerellidae.


Subordinate Taxa

There are currently seventeen subspecies of Passerculus sandwichensis recognized (and one doubtful subspecies). Many of the subspecies represent clines, or gradients, of a single morphological feature, such as bill size, overall size, reddish coloration, and darkness of plumage, but many or even most individuals are intermediate.


Savannah Sparrow Proper Group

Aleutian Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis sandwichensis)

Brown Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis brunnescens)

Churchill Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis oblitus)

Dwarf Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis brooksi)

Eastern Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis savanna)

Kodiak Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis anthinus)

Labrador Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis labradorius)

Nevada Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis nevadensis)

Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis wetmorei) (doubtful subspecies)

Western Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis alaudinus)


Ipswich Sparrow Group

Ipswich Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis princeps)


Large-billed Sparrow Group

Large-billed Sparrows Proper

Southern Large-billed Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis atratus)

Large-billed Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis rostratus)


Belding’s Large-billed Sparrow

Belding’s Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis beldingi)

Magdalena Belding’s Large-billed Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis magdalenae)

San Ignacio Belding’s Large-billed Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis guttatus)

Vizcaíno Belding’s Large-billed Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis anulus)


San Benito Large-billed Sparrow

San Benito Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis sanctorum)



Ammodramus sandwichensis










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Savannah Sparrow
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

Savannah Sparrow

"Eastern" Savannah Sparrow
JMC Nature Photos

"Eastern" Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrows

Savannah Sparrows



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Other Videos

Savannah Sparrow Singing
Scott Carpenter


Uploaded on Apr 23, 2011

Ridgefield NWR, Clark County, Washington, USA

Savannah Sparrow's Song
Dean Martin


Published on Jul 3, 2014


Savannah Sparrow (Emberizidae: Passerculus sandwichensis) Female Scolding
Carl Barrentine


Uploaded on Jul 6, 2009

Photographed at East Grand Forks, Minnesota (06 July 2009).

Savannah Sparrow Portrait
eBirdr Channel


Published on May 29, 2012

The Savannah Sparrow is common throughout North America in large fields with short or sparse grass, marshes.

It has a short notched tail, light eyebrow and dark whisker stripes, pink legs and feet. Some are quite dark with extensive side and breast streaking, sometimes with a central spot. Some are light with faint streaking. Pale form known as "Ipswich Sparrow" and breeds on Sable Island, Nova Scotia.

The song is a "slip, slip, slip it in easy" with a distinctive "seep" flight call.

Savannah Sparrow
Eric Preston


Published on Jun 26, 2013

Savannah Sparrow, The Prairie Enthusiasts' Mounds View Grassland, Iowa County, Wisconsin



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