Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)

Least Concern

Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)


French: Bruant des marais German: Sumpfammer Spanish: Chingolo pantanero

Fringilla georgiana


, 1790,

interior of Georgia, USA


Coastal plain race nigrescens rather distinctive, with studies showing incipient ecological speciation#R#R#R. Differences between ericrypta and nominate race slight. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. g. ericrypta Oberholser, 1938 – S Canada from SW Mackenzie E to C Quebec and Newfoundland and S to NE British Columbia, C Alberta, S Saskatchewan, W Ontario and SE Quebec, and S in USA to E North Dakota and N Minnesota; non-breeding from extreme SW Canada (coast of S Vancouver I) S in USA to S California and S Arizona, also from SE Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas E to S Georgia and NE Florida, and in Mexico in Sonora (rare) and Chihuahua, Coahuila and Tamaulipas S to Durango, Jalisco and Veracruz.
  • M. g. georgiana (Latham, 1790) – Swamp Sparrow – E South Dakota E to SE Canada (Prince Edward I and Nova Scotia), S to E Nebraska, N Missouri, Illinois, Ohio and West Virginia; non-breeding S to S Texas, Gulf Coast and S Florida.
  • M. g. nigrescens G. M. Bond & Stewart, 1951 – Coastal Sparrow – coastal E USA (from New Jersey S to SE Maryland).
  • Descriptive notes

    12–15 cm; 13·1–24 g. A medium-sized sparrow; often pumps tail up and down during flight. Nominate race breeding has black forehead with short, narrow white... read more


    Song a clear, slow liquid trill on single pitch, “weet-weet-weet-weet-weet-weet”. Call... read more


    Variety of habitats, from open cedar (Chamaecyparis) forests to bogs and freshwater... read more

    Food and feeding

    In breeding season mostly insects, but some fruit if available; race nigrescens probably eats more non-insect animal food than do... read more


    Season late Apr to early Jul, mostly mid-may to early Jul; two broods common in S parts of range. Generally monogamous, but 10–20% of males... read more


    Generally migratory; some perhaps resident in NE USA (N Iowa E to Massachusetts), where species... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Fairly common; often abundant in optimum habitat. Numbers greatly affected by loss of wetlands; a current decrease in populations is... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. (2020). Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana). 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 26 February 2020).