Swamp SparrowMelospiza georgiana

adult male, breeding
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult female, breeding
Garth McElroy/VIREO
adult, nonbreeding
Rob Curtis/VIREO
immature (1st winter)
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
Swamp Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow


5" (13 cm). A chunky dark sparrow with unstreaked underparts, bright rufous cap, and rusty wings; dark brown back and tail; gray face and breast; white throat. White-throated Sparrow has striped crown and whiter throat, and lacks rusty coloration on wings.


Sweet, musical trill, all on one note.


odd buzzy song
chips #2
chips #1
very slow pulse-rate song
slow pulse-rate song
fast pulse-rate song


Freshwater marshes and open wooded swamps; during migration with other sparrows, weedy fields, parks, and brush piles.


Breeds from Mackenzie east to Newfoundland, and south to northern Missouri, Ohio, Maryland, and Delaware. Winters north to Nebraska, southern Great Lakes region, and southern New England.


A bird of the wetlands during the breeding season, the Swamp Sparrow appears in a variety of other habitats during migration and in winter. It is rather shy, but responds readily to any squeaking noise, and can usually be lured into view by a patient observer. It is never seen in large flocks like the White-throated and White-crowned sparrows, but is usually found singly, foraging on the ground in rather dense cover.


4 or 5 blue-green eggs, with brown blotches, in a grassy cup on the ground, well hidden in dense tussocks or marsh vegetation.

Similar Species


Lincoln's Sparrow

5-6" (13-15 cm). Crown has 2 rusty stripes; gray eyebrow. Buff band, finely streaked with black, across upper breast. Similar to Song Sparrow, but more finely streaked and shyer.

adult, California

Song Sparrow

5-7" (13-18 cm). Heavy brown streaking on white underparts, with prominent central breast spot (sometimes lacking in juveniles).

adult (Ipswich Sparrow)

Savannah Sparrow

4 1/2-6" (11-15 cm). Pale and streaked, yellowish eyebrow and pinkish legs. Tail notched; other grassland sparrows have shorter, more pointed tails.

adult Sooty (Pacific)

Fox Sparrow

6-7 1/2" (15-19 cm). A chubby, large sparrow, either dusky brown, or slate-colored in the West, or rich rufous in the East, often so dark that no back pattern can be discerned.


Chipping Sparrow

5-5 1/2" (13-14 cm). A small sparrow. Upperparts are brown, streaked with black; underparts, sides of face, and rump are gray.


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