Saltmarsh Sparrow

Saltmarsh Sparrows are tiny, social birds weighing less than 1 ounce. It can be difficult to spot this bird as they spend most of their time on the ground within the tall grasses of a salt marsh where they make a home. Although hard to spot among the marsh, the sparrow can be recognized by its colorful facial plumage with an orange triangle on the face and gray patches on each ear. 

Setting them apart from other sparrows, the Saltmarsh sings its complex song at a slight whisper. 

Saltmarsh Sparrows have a limited range and can be spotted almost exclusively on North America’s east coast environments. They tend to prefer the tall grasses of saltmarshes, where they forage for food and build nests slightly above the flood line for their young. 

These sparrows haven’t easily adjusted to rapidly diminishing and changing coastlines caused by the rise of commercialization along coastal regions such as North Carolina’s Atlantic beaches. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Saltmarsh Sparrow as a species of conservation concern

70 important bird areas have been identified and designated on North Carolina’s coastal plain that support coastal birds with food and habitat as they nest and raise their babies. The following IBAs are important to the success of Saltmarsh Sparrow populations and the conservation efforts in place to protect them. 

  • Bald Head- Smith Island
  • Lea-Hutaff Island
  • Masonboro Island
  • Pea Island
  • Currituck Marshes -Pine Island