Sorting Sparrows: “Ipswich” Savannah Sparrow

Photo of "Ipswich" Savannah Sparrow
"Ipswich" Savannah Sparrow | Biddeford Pool, ME | 3 Oct 2016

Savannah Sparrows breed in grasslands throughout much of Canada and the northern US, and winter for the most part in coastal and southern US and Mexico. One distinctive subspecies of Savannah Sparrow, which breeds almost exclusively on Sable Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, is the "Ipswich" Savannah Sparrow, or "Ipswich" Sparrow, for short.

Due to morphological differences like their larger size and sandy gray plumage, this subspecies was formerly thought to be a separate species, though current taxonomies now lump this form with the browner, slimmer mainland types of Savannah Sparrows (see photo below). Outside of the breeding season, "Ipswich" Sparrows can be seen in coastal habitats throughout the eastern seaboard, places where being the color of sand can be a distinct advantage.

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2 thoughts on “Sorting Sparrows: “Ipswich” Savannah Sparrow”

  1. Josh,

    Do you count the larger, pinker, slightly arched bill seen in many Ipswich photos to be among the distinctive features?

    With thanks,

    Michael Godfrey

    1. Hi Michael: Hm… I guess not… I rely more on their plumper overall size, their paler (sand-colored) plumage, and their habitat preference (usually sandy places).

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