A Visitor From Sable Island, Nova Scotia

Savannah "Ipswich" Sparrow


Savannah "Ipswich" Sparrow                                                          Derek Rogers
This morning, I joined friends Mike and Lynne Scheibel at Point Lookout Town Beach for a brief bird outing. Diversity was somewhat low all around. The first jetty yeilded several numbers of our common gull species. Four Harlequin Ducks were a nice surprise but are always fairly reliable at this location. We made our way east toward the inlet, the usual suspects continued. Horned Grebes were gaining some color as the early signs of the breeding season were apparant in their plumage.

While scanning the inlet, Mike called out, "Ipswich." He located the sparrow about 30 feet from us on the jetty of which we were standing. The Ispwich variety of the Savannah Sparrow is one of my favorite of the sparrow species. While not entirely uncommon on Long Island, or the coastal Northeast, you will very rarely see an Ipswich sparrow inland.

The Ispwich Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis princeps) is one of many subspecies of the widespread populations of the Savannah Sparrow. They breed only on Sable Island in Nova Scotia. What separates them in identification is their pale color, sometimes appearing gray or white. Like the "typical" savannah sparrow, they have fine streaking that runs down the breast and flanks toward the ventral. They have a pale yellow supercillium and are slightly larger than the "typical" savannah. 

Sable Island - 110 miles from the mainland in Nova Scotia
 Lucky for us Long Islanders, Ipswich Sparrows spend their winters along the coast of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States. They have been known to head as far south as Georgia. I often see this sparrow in and among the dunes on ocean beaches. On occasion, I see them feeding along jetties, which was the case with this particular individual. Stuck to its beak was a noticeable green residue from persistently picking macroinvertebrates among the algae covered rocks.
Savannah "Ispwich" Sparrow                                                                                                                                        Derek Rogers




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