Seaside Sparrow Ammospiza maritima Scientific name definitions

Jon S. Greenlaw, W. Gregory Shriver, and William Post
Version: 2.0 — Published July 1, 2022

Priorities for Future Research


At this time of increased coastal development, it is important to gather information on this discontinuously distributed habitat specialist, particularly regarding the influence of natural agents (extreme tides, predators, and storms) and changes related to human activities (wild fires, water-level manipulations, pollution). Populations in the northeastern United States and peninsular Florida have been relatively well-studied, and it may be possible to make informed management decisions, where necessary. Additional information is needed from the Gulf of Mexico, west of the Florida peninsula. Further research on the use of fire as a management tool should be based on controlled experiments conducted in different habitats and localities.

Because foraging adults often spend extended periods off their territories, parentage studies of this putatively monogamous species should be continued. Such information would help to understand the evolution of scramble-competition polygyny (163) in the closely related Saltmarsh Sparrow. The role that female aggression plays in the maintenance of monogamy in the Seaside Sparrow also deserves study.

Werner (161) stated that research on the reintroduction of the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow should have high priority. Methods of translocating Seaside Sparrow should be developed, perhaps via juveniles, which have been successfully maintained in captivity (268). Methods of introducing birds to target marshes need to be developed, before populations are extirpated (162).

Information from recent genetic studies of Seaside Sparrow populations across its global range has supplied evidence that some range boundaries between subspecies along both Atlantic and Gulf coasts based on specimen analyses of plumage and morphology do not match transitions in genetic structure (52, 12). Because previous phenotypic analyses were done in relation to variation among subspecies (see Subspecies), further examination of plumage variation and song from a quantitative geographic perspective is desirable; this approach is important to better understand evolution of geographic variation in these characters (12).

Related to previous suggestion, regional and local status of breeding populations of A. m. macgillivraii is currently an open question. Studies using dataloggers or other technologies are needed to determine where South Carolina breeding populations, which evidently vacate their breeding sites, spend the winter (see Subspecies). The same may be true of North Carolina populations of putative A. m. macgillivraii.

Nest predation is a significant source of nest mortality (201, 5, 270), especially in lower latitudes of the Seaside Sparrow range. Many species are known to depredate Seaside Sparrow nests, but more research is needed to determine the relative impact of individual predator species on nest survival.

A critical reevaluation of existing specimens from populations along the Florida panhandle, which largely span the presumptive "habitat gap" (12) between A. m. fisheri and A. m. peninsulae (here, including A. m. juncicola) to determine the eastern distributional limit of fisheri and the western limit of peninsulae (provisionally now accepted as Wakulla County, type locality of juncicola). This assessment must compare specimens from the Florida panhandle populations with samples from Louisiana (fisheri) and western peninsular Florida (peninsulae/juncicola).

Recommended Citation

Greenlaw, J. S., W. G. Shriver, and W. Post (2022). Seaside Sparrow (Ammospiza maritima), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.seaspa.02