Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)

Least Concern

Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)


French: Bruant des prés German: Grasammer Spanish: Chingolo sabanero

Emberiza Sandwichensis

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

Unalaska, Alaska, USA


Traditionally treated as conspecific with P. guttatus and P. rostratus, and often also with P. sanctorum, but all differ in morphology and plumage and, to some extent, in ecology; separation at species level supported by recent genetic findings. Race princeps has been considered a separate species. Geographical variation of nominate race largely clinal: other proposed races are, from Canada, anthinus (described from Kodiak I, in Alaska), crassus (Sitka, in Alaska), brooksi (Chilliwack, in British Columbia), oblitus (Fort Churchill, in Manitoba) and labradorius (L’Anse-au-Loup, in Labrador), from USA, mediogriseus (Ashtabula County, in extreme NE Ohio), alaudinus (California, probably San Francisco), nevadensis (Soldier Meadows, Humboldt County, in NW Nevada) and savanna (Savannah, in E Georgia), from Mexico, rufofuscus (Babicora, in Chihuahua) and brunnescens (Valley of Mexico), and from W Guatemala, †wetmorei (Hacienda Chancol); all of which are synonymized with nominate. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. s. sandwichensis (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – Savannah Sparrow – Alaska and Canada (except extreme N) S in USA to N California, W Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana and N Georgia, in C Mexico S to Puebla, possibly also SW Guatemala; one old nesting record in Russian Far East (Chukotka)#R; non-breeding S Canada S to C Mexico.
  • P. s. princeps Maynard, 1872 – Ipswich Sparrow – Sable I, in E Canada (E Nova Scotia); winters on Atlantic coast of USA (E Massachusetts S to S Georgia).
  • Descriptive notes

    11·4–15·4 cm; 13–32·5 g. A rather small to medium-sized sparrow with relatively short, notched tail, geographically variable; tends to be... read more


    Song in breeding season a lisping “tzip-tzip-tzip streeeeeee-ip”, variable; race ... read more


    Open areas, especially grasslands, generally with scattered shrubs, also tundra, meadows, farmland... read more

    Food and feeding

    In breeding season takes variety of larval, pupal and adult insects and other small invertebrates, e.g. spiders (Araneae), millipedes (... read more


    Season mid-Feb to Aug, earlier in S and in coastal California than in N; usually two broods, sometimes three or more, but single-brooded at... read more


    Most populations migratory; some coastal California populations and those in Mexico and Guatemala... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Often common or very common in appropriate habitat. Race princeps has tiny global range, a single small island c. 45 km long... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J., Christie, D.A. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis). 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 23 February 2020).