Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Passerculus sandwichensis
Population size
170 mln
Life Span
6 yrs
15-29 g
11-17 cm
18-25 cm

The Savannah sparrow is a small American sparrow. It has a typically sparrow-like dark-streaked brown back, and whitish underparts with brown or blackish breast and flank streaking. It has whitish crown and supercilium stripes, sometimes with some yellow (more often near the beak). The cheeks are brown and the throat white. The flight feathers are blackish-brown with a light brown or white border. The eyes are dark. The feet and legs are horn-colored, as is the lower part of the bill, with the upper part being dark grey.


Savannah sparrows breed in Alaska, Canada, northern, central, and Pacific coastal United States, Mexico, and Guatemala. The Pacific and Mexican breeders are resident, but other populations are migratory, wintering from the southern United States across Central America and the Caribbean to northern South America. These birds inhabit open grasslands, tundra, shrubland, meadows, wetlands, and agricultural fields. They can also be found on beaches, sand dunes, salt marshes, and estuaries.

Savannah Sparrow habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

Savannah sparrows are social birds and typically spend time in pairs or family groups in the breeding season. However, before the winter migration, they assemble in large flocks and become very energetic and noisy. Their flight call is a thin 'seep' and the song is a mixture of 'chirps' and trills. Savannah sparrows are diurnal; they forage by day on the ground or in low bushes. Particularly in winter, they can also be found in grazed low-growth grassland. They feed by walking along the ground and occasionally run or hop to snatch their prey. They will also make short flights to catch insects in mid-air.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Savannah sparrows are herbivores (granivores) and carnivores (insectivores). During winter they mainly eat seeds, but in the breeding season switch their diet to insects and spiders.

Mating Habits

10-13 days
4-4.5 weeks
2-6 eggs

In the northern part of their range, Savannah sparrows are polygynous and males mate with more than one female; however, in other areas, these birds are monogamous and form pairs. Males return to the breeding grounds a week before females and establish territories and attract mates. Savannah sparrows usually hide their nests in densely vegetated areas. The nest is an open cup made of grass, lined with finer grass. It is located on the ground or low shrubs. The female lays 2-6 eggs and incubates them about 10 to 13 days. The chicks are born helpless and remain in the nest for 8-11 days. After the young fledge parents continue to feed them until they are 3 weeks old.


Population threats

Savannah sparrows are widespread and abundant; however, they are susceptible to the loss of their natural habitat, the use of pesticides, and early mowing or haying which disrupts the nests before chicks have fledged.

Population number

According to Partners in Flight resource, the total population size of the Savannah sparrow is 170,000,000 breeding individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Although they share the name sparrow, American sparrows are more closely related to Old World buntings than they are to the Old World sparrows (true sparrows). American sparrows are also similar in both appearance and habits to finches.
  • The Savannah sparrow was named from Savannah, Georgia, where one of the first specimens of this bird was collected.
  • Savannah sparrows are excellent runners and if spotted they drop into the grass and dart away.
  • To feed her chicks and herself, a female Savannah sparrow must gather 10 times her weight in food daily.
  • In Savannah sparrows, females are responsible for nest construction.


1. Savannah Sparrow on Wikipedia -
2. Savannah Sparrow on The IUCN Red List site -

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About