Spotlight On Ohio Birds

Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow ( Ammodramus nelsoni )

Family: Emberizidae

Order: Passeriformes

Description: The Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow is a small perching bird, weighing about .6 ounces and measuring about 5 inches long, with a wingspan of 7 inches. Overall, the bird’s coloration is subtly complex. The head is boldly marked with yellow-orange, forming a triangle around each grey cheek. This bright ochre color moves down the lower face into the sides of the neck and then into the chest. From the dark eye, a thin, brown stripe cuts through the ochre to the grey nape of the neck. The crown is also grey. The sparrow’s upper parts are mostly warm brown, with black and whitish streaks. Light steaks mark the sides and fade into the ochre chest. The chin and belly are whitish.  The bill is short; the tail is likewise short and sharp, appearing frayed. Breeding populations on the eastern seaboard are generally duller, grayer, and larger.

Voice: Song a steady hissing buzz.

Habitat: Freshwater marshes and wet meadows in interior and brackish marshes along coast; in winter in salt and brackish marshes.

Nesting: 2-6 greenish eggs covered with dark speckles. The nest is a open cup of grass stems and blades, lined with finer grass blades and sometimes built up on sides to form partial covering.


FYI’s: The Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow formerly was considered the same species as the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, collectively known as the Sharp-tailed Sparrow. The two forms have separate breeding ranges that barely overlap in Maine. They differ in genetics, songs, and subtle plumage characters.

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/


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