New York Natural Heritage Program
Seaside Sparrow
Ammodramus maritimus (Wilson, 1811)
Birds

Habitat [-]
The seaside sparrow is a habitat specialist that occupies coastal tidal marshes throughout most of its limited range. Birds in the northeastern portion of the range, including New York, use both high and low marsh. High marsh may provide marginal habitat; areas are dominated by salt meadow grass (Spartina patens), black grass (Juncus gerardi), glasswort (Salicornia spp.) and marsh elder (Iva frutescens). Low marsh is dominated by smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) and birds select nesting locations near grass tufts (Greenlaw 1983). Birds avoid areas of uniform salt meadow grass in high marsh and nest along edges with marsh elder. Drier, more upland sites consisting of salt panne are used infrequently and brackish marshes historically were used in New York (Levine 1998). Higher quality habitat generally consists of elevated sites removed from flooding with muddy open areas for feeding (Levine 1998).

Associated Ecological Communities [-]
  • High salt marsh
    A coastal marsh community that occurs in sheltered areas of the seacoast, in a zone extending from mean high tide up to the limit of spring tides. It is periodically flooded by spring tides and flood tides. High salt marshes typically consist of a mosaic of patches that are mostly dominated by a single graminoid species.
  • Low salt marsh
    A coastal marsh community that occurs in sheltered areas of the seacoast, in a zone extending from mean high tide down to mean sea level or to about 2 m (6 ft) below mean high tide. It is regularly flooded by semidiurnal tides. The mean tidal range of low salt marshes on Long Island is about 80 cm, and they often form in basins with a depth of 1.6 m or greater.
  • Salt panne*
    A shallow depression in a salt marsh where the marsh is poorly drained. Pannes occur in both low and high salt marshes. Pannes in low salt marshes usually lack vegetation, and the substrate is a soft, silty mud. Pannes in a high salt marsh are irregularly flooded by spring tides or flood tides, but the water does not drain into tidal creeks. After a panne has been flooded the standing water evaporates and the salinity of the soil water is raised well above the salinity of sea-water.

    * probable association but not confirmed

Associated Species [-]
  • Saltmarsh Sharp-Tailed Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus)