Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)


Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammospiza caudacuta)


French: Bruant à queue aiguë German: Spitzschwanzammer Spanish: Chingolo colifino
Other common names: Sharp-tailed Sparrow (when treated as conspecific with A. nelsoni)

Oriolus caudacutus

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,

New York, USA


Until recently considered conspecific with A. nelsoni, but differs in its natural history; the two hybridize in NE USA (S Maine to N Massachusetts); precise ranges of the two on Atlantic coast not fully known, as references to “Sharp-tailed Sparrow” not always clear. Races poorly differentiated, and probably indistinguishable in the field; original description of diversa was based on material from S of species’ breeding range. Two subspecies tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. c. caudacuta (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – NE USA from S Maine S along coast to New Jersey; non-breeding mainly from New Jersey S to N & W Florida.
  • A. c. diversa (Bishop, 1901) – coastal New Jersey S to Chesapeake Bay; non-breeding probably from breeding range S to NE Florida, and casually to Louisiana.
  • Descriptive notes

    11·5–13 cm; 15·3–23·1 g. A fairly small sparrow with short tail, rectrices spike-like. Nominate race has grey median crownstripe thin and... read more


    Male has a “whisper song” that has a whispery, wheezy quality, and may last for more... read more


    Occupies saltmarshes and wet meadows with dense cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora),... read more

    Food and feeding

    No detailed information on diet; presumably small invertebrates and seeds. Forages principally on or near ground or low in vegetation.


    Season mid-May to Aug; two peaks of egg-laying, one in late May to early Jun, and other in middle to late Jul, suggest two broods.... read more


    Migratory. Spring migration from late Apr through early May, and autumn migration from Sept through... read more

    Status and conservation

    ENDANGERED. The species’ geographical range extends in a narrow coastal band over c. 20,000 km², within which suitable habitat is greatly fragmented; effective... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. & Sharpe, C.J. (2020). Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammospiza caudacuta). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 22 February 2020).