Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Seaside Sparrow - Ammospiza maritima
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General Comments The Seaside Sparrow is an unusual sparrow, in that most individuals within its coastal range apparently do not migrate. However, individuals in the northernmost part of the range (southern New England and New York, and perhaps south to Cape Hatteras) migrate southward, and on rare occasions can occur inland (usually as tower-killed victims). There are a number of subspecies of Seaside Sparrow, but those in North Carolina are scarcely detectable from others. In North Carolina, it is found all year in coastal/tidal marshes, though there are some notable habitat shifts during the year. Because salt marshes have moderate to great tidal amplitudes, birds avoid nesting in such sites, instead breeding in brackish marshes, both along the coast and at least locally around the inner portions of Pamlico Sound and tidal creeks entering into it. From fall to spring, birds move to the richer salt marshes, though they also winter in brackish marshes. Apparently, some breeding sites, such as in certain black needlerush stands, are vacated in winter.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S4B,S4N
Global Rank G4
Coastal Plain Permanent resident in coastal marshes, with some migratory and habitat movements. In summer, fairly common to often common in brackish marshes (or irregularly flooded salt marshes) along the immediate coast (coastal islands and adjacent mainland edges of sounds); fairly common to locally common at some sites along the inner portions of Pamlico Sound, but more distributional data needed. At other seasons, common in tidal marshes (more so in salt than in brackish) from Carteret southward, and fairly common northward. Winter status and abundance around the inner portion of Pamlico Sound unclear, but seemingly scarce. Inland, casual in fall; records only from TV-tower kills at a site near White Lake (Bladen) -- 2 on 19 Oct 1972 and 6 on 12 Oct 1982. Peak counts: 150, flying in front of a fire at Cedar Island (Carteret), 30 May 1983; 150, along NC 12 in Cedar Island NWR, 16 Apr 2017; 124 (most of which were juvenile birds), at this site, 9 Jul 2017.
Piedmont Accidental; the only record is one seen at Falls Lake on 2 Sep 2007 [Chat 72:38 link].
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips The species is easily found at all seasons at Federal Point and near the Aquarium at Fort Fisher, or at Cedar Island NWR in late spring or summer, among many other places.
Attribution LeGrand[2017-12-18], LeGrand[2017-12-08], LeGrand[2012-11-04]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.