SPECIES

Seaside Sparrow Ammospiza maritima Scientific name definitions

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

Systematics

Systematics History

The Seaside Sparrow first became known to science in 1811 from the description and plate of Alexander Wilson in American Ornithology (1). Since then it has received revisionary attention through much of the 1900s (41, 13, 42, 43, 44, 25, 45, 46). Of these revisions, Chapman's earliest treatment (41) set the stage for our basic understanding of subspecies-level geographic variation along the northern Gulf and Atlantic coasts that prevails today. The last assessment (1957) of geographic variation and subspecies distribution by the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) (47) recognized seven subspecies, two of which (juncicola, pelonota) later became synonyms of more widespread geographically adjacent subspecies. Subsequent investigators (e.g., 48, 49, 50, 24, 10) provided contributions on subspecies, and Woltmann and Davis and coauthors (51, 52, 12) clarified the geographic and breeding status of A. m. sennetti at the southwestern limit of the species’ range in Texas. During its taxonomic history, Seaside Sparrow has been subject to different taxonomic views on species limits and numbers of recognized subspecies (see Subspecies and Nomenclature), and understanding of distributional limits.

The current understanding of plumage variation is non-quantitative and remains tied to subspecies descriptions, which makes it difficult to interpret how plumage varies in the species. For example, plumage background color is known to be more variable in one Atlantic coast subspecies (A. m. macgillivraii) and one Gulf coast subspecies (A. m. fisheri) compared to other recognized subspecies in each of these regions (53, 25, 26). Funderburg and Quay’s “polyphasic” classification of this variation, anticipated by Griscom in his second revision, in the two sets of populations (two subspecies) is misleading as their “intermediate” phase (morph) implies that pale and dark plumage background colors are likely continuously variable and thus do not represent discrete categories. This variability is best understood as an evolutionary genetic issue, which remains unresolved. New insights into relationships among subspecies developed when molecular genetic methods became available in the late 1900s. Using mtDNA analysis, Avise and Nelson (54) examined the genetic relationship of A. m. nigrescens with other named populations of Seaside Sparrow. Their analyses revealed the taxon was closely related to Atlantic coastal populations of the species and genetic affinity with populations along the Gulf of Mexico was relatively weak. On the Gulf coast, the two terminal populations, dark peninsulae in Florida on its Gulf coast was notable in plumage color (blackish) and pale greenish sennetti in Texas was most unique genetically (51, 52).

Recent range-wide genetic studies of the species confirm that Gulf coast populations consist of three distinctive genetic groups (sennetti, fisheri, peninsulae, including juncicola) and Atlantic populations also are characterized by three genetic groups, the most distinct in Charleston County, South Carolina (55, 12) that may approach a cline. An earlier genetic analysis (56) of A. m. mirabilis at the tip of peninsular Florida placed the subspecies in the Atlantic coast clade, where it was divergent from the Gulf coast clade. Recent genetic work found misalignments between boundaries of genetic groups and the phenotypic boundaries of certain subspecies along both Gulf (peninsulae versus juncicola; 12) and Atlantic coasts (nominate maritima versus macgillivraii; 55, 12). Although based on a small genetic sample for mirabilis, Davis et al. (12) provided evidence of its relationship with the Atlantic populations in one analysis, but another analysis suggested that the Everglades populations cluster between the western Florida subspecies on the Gulf coast and the Atlantic subspecies. Still, they found the two most distinctive genetic structures in the species within its global range reside in the two most isolated and smallest populations: mirabilis and sennetti.

Population genetic structure along the Gulf coast still does not align neatly with subspecies boundaries, chiefly in that neither mitochondrial DNA nor microsatellites recorded a clear distinction between the two taxa (peninsulae and juncicola) on the western Florida peninsula (51), a pattern that may suggest recent and weak divergence (12). Davis et al. (12) documented three distinctive genetic groups along the Gulf coast between southern Texas and northern Florida and possibly two to three weakly distinct groups on the Atlantic coast (12). Finally, after more than 120 years following Chapman's revision (41), we now may have reason to begin a reconsideration of how we treat phenotypic geographic variation in populations of the species along the Atlantic coast (55, 12; see above). Body mass and wing chord, the only data representing phenotypes, exhibited weak linear clines with latitude across the Atlantic coast (55), but a more rigorous assessment of geographic plumage variation is needed (12) to evaluate potential subspecies boundaries more critically along that coast. Genetic studies have not yet identified genes associated with plumage or external morphological variation in this species, assuming such variation is adaptive.

Geographic Variation

A modern quantitative assessment of geographic plumage and morphological variation independent of subspecies taxonomy is needed (12). Along Atlantic coast, birds become paler from south to north, with darkness peaking in central Florida on both of its coasts (25, 24), and again secondarily in the Charleston area of South Carolina (55), but whether geographic change in the species' narrow and patchy distribution along the Atlantic coast is clinal remains an open question. A discriminant analysis of principal components (a specialized statistical visualization) showed weakly resolved subgroups among populations from the northern nominate population to isolated mirabilis in southernmost Florida (Figure 4C in 12). Among these, mirabilis is quite distinct genetically (but sample size limited) and the Charleston population (Figure 1, location 15 in 12) is more distinct than other subpopulations north from Georgia to New England. Overall, genetic structure (54, 56, 12) and biogeography (26, 7) imply two phylogenetically distinct groups, one on the Atlantic coast, likely including mirabilis (56), and the other along the Gulf of Mexico east to northwest Florida. But, the current range boundary in northern North Carolina between nominate and macgillivraii based on old plumage analyses does not conform to the location of the northern end of the intergrade zone (Figure 5A in 12) between these subspecies in northern South Carolina (Figure 1, location 16 in 12) based on genetic structure. Rather, apart from the most distinctive (very dark) plumages of peninsulae on the northern Gulf coast of peninsular Florida and of extinct nigrescens on the Florida Atlantic coast, Gulf coast birds judged and misjudged by plumage assessments in the past most closely resemble Atlantic coast birds north of Florida with minor regional distinctiveness (41, 26, 24). Size generally diminishes from north to south along the Atlantic coast (24). On the Gulf coast, size generally decreases from north to south on Florida peninsula, and from east to west from the Florida panhandle to southern Texas, although differences are slight (24). A. m. sennetti in extreme southeast Texas is genetically, phenotypically, and ecologically distinct among populations on the Gulf coast (52, 12). Song also varies geographically, with populations isolated on peninsular Florida the most divergent (57).

Subspecies

Seven subspecies (Figure 2), generally following the work of Mary McDonald (24) who, with Herbert Kale, examined more than 1,300 specimens from throughout the species’ range, with subspecies diagnosed on the basis of general tone and saturation of plumage as well as the extent (heaviness) of streaking. This treatment reflects views of subspecies limits raised by McDonald (24), Kale (49), Woltmann et al. (52), and Davis et al. (12) and places the familiar available names of two localized populations (juncicola on the Gulf coast of Florida and pelonota on the east coast and now extinct) as synonyms of peninsulae and macgillivraii, respectively. This subspecies treatment is consistent with eBird/Clements (58) and Howard and Moore (59) checklists.


EBIRD GROUP (POLYTYPIC)

Seaside Sparrow (Atlantic) Ammospiza maritima maritima/macgillivraii

Available illustrations of subspecies in this group

SUBSPECIES

Ammospiza maritima maritima Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

Fringilla maritima Wilson, 1811, American Ornithology, Volume 4, p. 68, plate 34, figure 2.—sea islands and mainland estuaries along the Atlantic coast (1); type locality restricted to Great Egg Harbor, New Jersey, United States, per Oberholser (43). Wilson evidently had both male and female specimens available to him at the time of description, but the whereabouts of these specimens (including the bird depicted in his plate 34) are currently unknown.

Distribution

Breeds coastally in eastern United States from New Hampshire and rarely to southwestern Maine (but occurrences there chiefly in fall; 60), south to northern North Carolina (43). Overwinters coastally from Virginia south to northeastern Florida. The phenotypic southern boundary with A. m. macgillivraii was delineated in northern North Carolina (61), but this does not conform with the genetic transition, which first appears in northern South Carolina (12).

Identification Summary

Dorsum gray, with or without relatively pale streaking; ventrum grayish white; breast band pale buff.


SUBSPECIES

Ammospiza maritima macgillivraii Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

Fringilla macgillivraii Audubon, 1834, Ornithological Biography, Volume 2, p. 285.—Charleston, South Carolina, United States (62). The holotype, an immature (sex unknown) received from Spencer F. Baird, who acquired it directly from Audubon, is held in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA (USNM 2894) (63).

Synonyms:
Thryospiza maritima waynei Oberholser, 1931, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 44:125.—Chatham County, Georgia, United States. The holotype is an adult male collected by Gilbert R. Rossignol on 1 June 1907, and held at the University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA (UMMZ 122038) (64). It was based on a pale variant of the subspecies, which varies geographically and locally from moderately dark to pale forms.
Thryospiza maritima pelonota Oberholser 1931, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 44:126.—New Smyrna, Volusia County, Florida, United States (43). The holotype is an adult male collected by Arthur H. Howell on 16 May 1925, and is held at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA (USNM 298868) (63).
Thryospiza maritimus shannoni H. H. Bailey, 1931, Bulletin of the Bailey Museum and Library of Natural History 7:1.—12 miles east of Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida, United States. The holotype is an adult male collected by W. E. Shannon on 20 June 1931, and is held at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA (USNM 525741) (65).

Distribution

Resident status uncertain; may be a partial migrant in northern part of range, whereas southern populations may be resident on or near breeding marshes (see below and Movements). Found along coast of eastern United States from central North Carolina (phenotypic boundary; 61) or northeastern South Carolina (genetic structural boundary; 12) to northeastern Florida (Nassau and Duval counties north of the St. Johns River) (10).

Recent microsatellite and genetic structural analyses call into question the currently accepted boundary (Dare County, North Carolina) between A. m. macgillivraii and A. m. maritima (55, 12). The most distinctive population genetically north of Florida is confined to the Charleston area, whereas populations of macgillivraii in North Carolina are fully consistent genetically with nominate birds breeding in the northeast (12). This information resulted in treating macgillivraii either as a synonym of maritima (66) or restricting the range of macgillivraii informally from northeastern South Carolina (Georgetown County), south to northeastern Florida (67), where the southward, genetic structure intergrade zone begins (12; see Systematics History).

South Carolina breeding populations are sparse (68) and apparently generally absent from breeding sites in winter (69). In South Carolina during winter, macgillivraii is found together with northern migrant individuals in coastal marshes, although it is unknown where local breeding birds overwinter (C. Hill, personal communication); e.g., no Charleston-area breeders have been recovered on Kiawah Island on coast near Charleston where winter banding occurs (70). If South Carolina breeding populations are regionally migratory, North Carolina populations may be as well; one individual banded in winter on Kiawah Island summered in North Carolina and returned to Kiawah Island the following winter (70).

Identification Summary

Like A. m. maritima, but streaking dorsally and ventrally thicker and darker; averages slightly smaller. Birds intermediate with A. m. maritima occur in eastern North Carolina and birds intermediate with A. m. nigrescens occur in northeastern Florida (71, 49, 24).


EBIRD GROUP (MONOTYPIC)

Seaside Sparrow (Dusky) Ammospiza maritima nigrescens Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

Ammodromus maritimus, var. nigrescens Ridgway, 1874, in Baird and Ridgway, Bulletin of the Essex Institute 12:198.—Indian River, Brevard County, Florida, United States (72). The holotype, reported by Ridgway (72) to be an adult male, but later reported to be female (63), was collected by Charles J. Maynard on 4 April 1872, and is held in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA (USNM 83501) (63).

Synonym:
Ammodromus melanoleucus Maynard, 1875, American Sportsman 5:248.—Indian River, south of Dummitt’s Grove, Florida, United States. The type specimen was collected in spring 1872 by C. J. Maynard, but its whereabouts are currently unknown.

Distribution

Extinct; former resident of coastal mid-Atlantic Florida, United States.

Identification Summary

Broadly similar to A. m. macgillivraii, but dorsum dark fuscous and ventrum white, streaked heavily with fuscous and without a breast band.


EBIRD GROUP (POLYTYPIC)

Seaside Sparrow (Gulf of Mexico) Ammospiza maritima [sennetti Group]

Available illustrations of subspecies in this group

SUBSPECIES

Ammospiza maritima fisheri Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

Ammodramus maritimus fisheri Chapman, 1899, Auk 16:10.—Grande Isle, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, United States (41). The holotype, an adult female in breeding condition (with egg in the oviduct) collected by Albert K. Fisher on 9 June 1886, is held at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA (USNM 163722) (63).

Synonym:
Passerherbulus maritimus howelli Griscom and Nichols, 1920, Abstract of the Proceedings of the Linnaean Society of New York 32:22.—Dauphin Island, Mobile County, Alabama, United States (42). The holotype, an adult male collected by Ernest G. Holt on 13 February 1912, is held in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA (USNM 231131) (63).

Distribution

Resident along coast of Gulf of Mexico in United States, from Alabama (also likely along panhandle coast of Florida from Pensacola area to Gulf County; see below) west to upper coast of eastern Texas.

The southern range limit of the typical form remains unclear, but apparently extends southward to an intergrade population (with sennetti) in the Aransas County–Corpus Christi area (52). The eastern limit of A. m. fisheri along the Gulf coast was given as “Pensacola” by the AOU (47). However, Weston (73) provisionally determined specimens from Santa Rosa County as fisheri, and specimens in the Florida Museum of Natural History that were taken in Walton and Gulf counties (eastern Florida panhandle) were assigned to fisheri by Herb Kale (A. Kratter, personal communication). Thus, the suggestion by Davis et al. (12) of a “habitat gap” in the western panhandle of Florida may not exist (see Priorities for Future Research).

Identification Summary

Similar to A. m. peninsulae, but dorsum olive-gray (less brown), with or without dark brown streaking, and breast band bright buff (less pale). Birds in the western Florida panhandle are intermediate with A. m. peninsulae.


SUBSPECIES

Ammospiza maritima sennetti Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

Ammodramus maritimus sennetti Allen, 1888, Auk 5:286.—Corpus Christi, Texas, United States (74). There are two syntypes, both of which are held at the American Museum of Natural History, New York: a male (AMNH 83537) and a female (AMNH 83538), both collected on 25 May 1886 by George B. Sennett (75).

Until recently, the southwestern limit of the breeding range of A. m. sennetti has been uncertain and confused (52). A. m. sennetti in most historical sources beginning with Griscom (45) was regarded as wintering only south of Corpus Christi, Texas, to the lower Rio Grande Valley (47, 76), which implied migration in an otherwise suspected resident population (fisheri; 25). More recent field (77, 78) and genetic studies (51, 52, 12) clarified the breeding distribution of sennetti and extend understanding of genetic relationships of fisheri notably and other populations along the Gulf coast to Florida. Field surveys confirmed that sennetti breeds as a resident in extreme southeastern Texas in a distinct (non-Spartina) coastal vegetation type (78, 52, 12; see Habitat). Currently the only known breeding population is in Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Similar habitat occurs elsewhere in Cameron County and on both sides of the mouth of the Rio Grande, where individuals have been photographed in July and August at Boca Chica (eBird); the subspecies could occur in adjoining Willacy County to the north. A nearly complete habitat gap evidently occurs northward in a region relatively immune from development where scattered, small areas of Spartina are present along the coast to include most of Kleberg County just south of Corpus Christi (52, 12). Typical A. m. sennetti is a distinctly different genetic entity (compared to other Gulf coast populations) breeding only in extreme southern Texas and well separated from an apparent intergrade zone in Neuces and Aransas counties (Neuces and Aransas bays) (52); see Figure 1, location 2, in Davis et al. (12). The initial molecular genetic analysis (51) of the Texas subspecies, later confirmed and extended by Woltmann et al. (52) and Davis et al. (12), placed the type locality of sennetti, Corpus Christi, Texas (74), within the transitional zone between the two Texas subspecies. To avoid orphaning the type locality, which now is isolated from the known breeding population miles to the south, systematists may wish to regard this zone as the northern range limit of sennetti, but such a move will not resolve the special biological issues that this expedient may generate. One also must recognize the long, apparent habitat gap between the breeding population in Cameron County and the genetic intergrade population near Corpus Christi. Woltmann et al. (51) found that the genetic contribution of the two interacting subspecies is asymmetric. The contribution of fisheri, which may be in contact with the intergrade zone from the north, is about 2.5 times greater than is that of sennetti across an apparent geographic and likely habitat gap. The degree to which the current type is representative of a population to which it does not fully belong geographically and the consequent potential uncertainty of the taxonomic status of the holotype of sennetti deserve to be revisited.

Distribution

Resident breeder along Gulf coast and potentially habitat-isolated in extreme southeastern Texas (Cameron County), United States (77, 78); possibly also present in suitable habitat in Willacy County and at mouth of Rio Grande in Tamaulipas, Mexico (79, eBird).

Birds near Corpus Christi (Neuces Bay and Aransas Bay) are well separated from breeding sennetti to the south and are intermediate genetically between sennetti and fisheri. The restriction of sennetti to the Rio Grande Valley and adjoining area likely reflects a long-standing geographic distribution only recently discovered. There is no evidence that the subspecies' occurrence in Cameron County is a recent range expansion. Indeed, the apparent separation between its occurrence in the Rio Grande Valley and the Corpus Christi area is substantial, but likely the result of limited saltmarsh habitat in this gap (52).

Identification Summary

Similar to A. m. fisheri, but dorsum greener (less olive) and generally unstreaked, ventrum whiter (less gray), and breast band faint and yellowish; averages smaller (24). Birds in the Corpus Christi area are intermediate between fisheri and sennetti.


SUBSPECIES

Ammospiza maritima peninsulae Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

Ammodramus maritimus peninsulae Allen, 1888, Auk 5:284.—Southwestern Florida (Tarpon Springs, FL), USA (74). Allen (74) nominated three syntypes, but that from the Grand Isle, Louisiana, a male collected in June 1886 by A. K. Fisher, which is also part of the type series of A. m. fisheri, cannot be located (75). The two Florida specimens are both at the American Museum of Natural History, New York: AMNH 31209 and AMNH 31210, both females, collected at Tarpon Springs on 28 February 1888 by W. E. D. Scott (75). Allen (74) had also seen a specimen in George B. Sennett's collection collected at Cedar Keys in November, which he considered to be basically identical to those from Tarpon Springs.

Synonym:
Passerherbulus maritimus juncicola Griscom and Nichols, 1920, Abstract of the Proceedings of the Linnaean Society of New York 32:25.—East Goose Creek, Wakulla County, Florida, USA (42). The holotype is an adult male collected on 29 March 1919 by Ludlow Griscom, and held at the American Museum of Natural History, New York (AMNH 144885); the same collection also holds the following paratypes: AMNH 155381–155387, three adult males, one adult female, and three juveniles, all collected on 6–8 September 1919, also by Ludlow Griscom at the same locality as the holotype (75). In the AOU Checklist (47), this taxon is listed with a western limit in the Florida panhandle as “Escambia Bay,” Escambia County. This bay overlaps with the “Pensacola” area as the eastern limit of A. m. fisheri range (see Priorities for Future Research). Based on plumage characters, McDonald (24) saw no distinction in her analysis between the two subspecies and recommended regarding juncicola as a synonym of A. m. peninsulae. A recent analysis of genetic structure of west coast populations in Florida showed weak genetic differences (only at north end of juncicola range) between juncicola and peninsulae (12).

Distribution

Resident of Gulf coast of peninsular Florida provisionally from Goose Creek Bay, Wakulla County (type locality of A. m. juncicola; 42) to Brasher Park, Port Richey, in southwestern Pasco County (80), not far north of the Tarpon Bay area in Pinellas County.

Identification Summary

Similar to A. m. macgillivraii, but dorsum brownish black (less gray) and ventrum gray (less white).


EBIRD GROUP (MONOTYPIC)

Seaside Sparrow (Cape Sable) Ammospiza maritima mirabilis Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

Thryospiza mirabilis Howell, 1919, Auk 36:86.—Cape Sable, Florida, United States (81). The holotype, an adult male collected by Arthur H. Howell on 18 February 1918, is held in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA (USNM 261542) (63).

Distribution

Isolated, genetically distinct, and endangered resident of freshwater habitats (82, 12) in the Everglades of Florida. Formerly occurred locally in maritime grass wetland in Cape Sable in coastal Everglades National Park, but several isolated subpopulations now inhabit freshwater prairie wetlands up to 40 km inland from Gulf coast (9).

Identification Summary

Most similar to A. m. sennetti of Texas, but dorsum more strongly greenish olive and ventrum more extensively white, streaked lightly or more strongly with brown and without a breast band; averages smaller than sennetti (81).

Related Species

Within the genus Ammospiza, Ammospiza maritima is sister to the two allospecies of the Ammospiza caudacuta (sharp-tailed sparrow) complex (83) and the clade is shared with LeConte's Sparrow (Ammospiza leconteii). Beyond phylogenetics, these taxa are similar osteologically (84) and behaviorally (JSG).

Hybridization with Other Species

A female collected near New Haven, Connecticut, was determined to be a hybrid Ammospiza maritima × Ammospiza caudacuta (Saltmarsh Sparrow) (85), and the two species have been observed copulating (86).

Nomenclature

The nomenclature of the Seaside Sparrow has had a long history of instability as various investigators have struggled to understand the species based on relatively subjective phenotypic differences (subspecies) and distinctiveness (species) at a time when the species’ distribution and plumage variation were poorly understood.

The species was described in 1811 by Alexander Wilson (1), who assigned it to Fringilla, evidently influenced by John Latham's classification (87), which was a broadly defined Linnaean taxon that included most then-known finches and finch-like birds. The specific epithet maritima has remained with the species throughout its reclassification history.

Swainson (88) moved the species from Fringilla to Ammodramus as then understood. Swainson's approach to naming and classification in the early 1800s fell within the historical era shared with Linnaeus in the previous century, which was dominated by the fundamental assumption that the apparent "design" of organism in nature was based on static, divine ideas or conceptual "types" (89, 90). This era was overtaken by Darwin's work (91) when the process of internal, dynamic "design" or adaptation by descent (natural selection) was formally introduced. The methodology of avian systematists that followed until the last decade of the 1900s, when molecular genetic methods first became available (92), is a messy process. Broadly, until phylogenetic methods were developed late in the twentieth, early taxonomy was a proxy approach to understanding evolutionary relationships among species based on inferred degrees of relatedness (similarity and distinctness) from phenotypic studies of specimens. Finally, phylogenetic and advanced statistical approaches provided the opportunity to test kinship (phylogenetic) hypotheses and thus to check historical efforts to judge relatedness based on phenotypic perspectives versus molecular genetic results of kinship to create monophyletic taxa to the extent desired.

The 210-year history of the Seaside Sparrow was for a long time characterized by a weak understanding of distribution, phenotypic variation, and habits including migration. To a large degree, most populations of the species remains inadequately studied even today. Because one taxon (A. m. nigrescens) has become extinct and another two are officially endangered (A. m. mirabilis) or unofficially so (A. m. sennetti), and because the entire species is distributed in the eastern United States mostly in small pockets of populations in patchy tidal or subtidal marshes (or inland in Everglades grasslands) now threatened by rising sea-levels fringing the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts, the species has received considerable attention in a few locations in recent years. Here we provide a basic, but comprehensive overview of the nomenclatural history of the Seaside Sparrow (see Table 2). One of the earliest issues in this history concerned the linking of a new genus-level taxa to a particular specimen that may or may not be identified in the original description. This specimen represents the "type species" of the genus, which is important when issues arise about priority of names and concern the question as to which lineage of birds the genus name applies. This issue arose early in the species' history when Swainson linked the genus Ammodramus to Oriolus caudacutus, which was the early name of the "Sharp-tailed Sparrow" (now Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammospiza caudacuta)) introduced by Gmelin in 1788 (93) into the classic Linnaean volume that he prepared after Linnaeus' death. Oberholser (94) later discovered that this genus was instead tied to Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum) through an earlier subspecies name, which in turn also goes back to a Gmelin name published in 1789 for the Grasshopper Sparrow population of Jamaica (95; see Table 2). During the 191 years between Swainson, who introduced the name Ammodramus (96), and 2018 when the AOS (97; see Table 2) finally returned Seaside Sparrow and all its closest relatives to Ammospiza (marshland sparrows), this species has spent about 62% of its time associated with Ammodramus. That genus over the years has contained as many as 11 species in 4 subgenera in the second edition of the AOU Check-list (see Table 2) and 10 species in Paynter's "Peters" Emberizidae of the world (98) to as few as three monophyletic species currently—the widespread Grasshopper Sparrow and two others in South America (SACC). A second important issue, to provide another example, concerns how broadly or narrowly one defines genera based on structural details of morphology. In the past, a few authors tended to emphasize small differences in structure, which sometimes resulted in species that actually were closely related being placed in separate genera. This problem appeared in the Seaside Sparrow lineage early in the history of what is now known as passerellid nomenclature when the Seaside Sparrow and "sharp-tailed sparrows" (single species and two-species concepts) always were regarded as closely related and were moved together in and out of Ammodramus to other genera (see Table 2), while LeConte's Sparrow (currently Ammospiza leconteii) was most often separated from these two species and placed or remained in a different genus (typically in Passerherbulus with Henslow's Sparrow, now Centronyx henslowii). Murray (99) finally resolved this issue in an analysis that convinced the AOU to place the species with its two closest, marshland relatives. Now Seaside Sparrow is together with two species of sharp-tailed sparrows and LeConte's Sparrow in Ammospiza, which today, unlike in Oberholser's time (94; see Table 2), is the monophyletic genus Ammospiza. Murray in 1968 regarded Nelson's Sparrow (Ammospiza nelsoni) as sister to LeConte's Sparrow, mostly based on plumage similarity. But today LeConte's Sparrow is considered basal in the Ammospiza clade and Seaside Sparrow sister to the two sharp-tailed sparrow species in a subclade (100).

Fossil History

No information.

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