The Savannah Sparrow of the Pacific Northwest
The Savannah sparrow is a very pretty little bird with a short notched tail. The head seems small for its fat body, and the crown feathers often flare up to give the bird a small crown. The thick bill is small for a sparrow. Savannah sparrows are brown above and white below, with sharp streaks over most of its body, except its belly. Their upper parts are brown with black streaks, and the underparts are white with thin dark brown streaks on the breast and flanks. Look for a small yellow stripe on the face over the eye.
Savannah sparrows eat seeds on or near the ground, alone or in small flocks, they are constant visitors to our feeders on Vancouver Island.
When startled, they usually fly up, flare their short tails, and circle around to land some yards away. In spring and summer, males sing while sitting on low perches on fences and trees.
These sparrows breed in open areas with low vegetation, we see them in the yellow grass, running in groups, you see one and as you look at it you realize that there are many of them.
The male sings to defend his territory and to attract a mate. Polygyny is common in many populations, but many are also monogamous. If both members of a pair survive, they are likely to pair up again in the following year. The female builds the nest on the ground, usually in a depression and well hidden in thick grass or under matted down plants. Overhanging vegetation can act like a tunnel, giving the nest a side entrance. The nest itself is an open cup made of coarse grass and lined with finer grass. The female incubates up to 5 eggs for up to 13 days. Both adults care for and feed the young, which leave the nest at by 12 days of age. The fledglings run short distances, but can’t fly well for another week or so. The parents continue to feed and tend the young until they are about three weeks old.