Date: 6/28/18 2:29 pm
From: Chris Elphick via CTBirds <ctbirds...>
Subject: [CT Birds] Atlasing for saltmarsh and seaside sparrows
Hi everyone,
Having spent a couple of days in the field doing research for our saltmarsh bird studies, I wanted to give people with coastal atlas blocks a heads up that many saltmarsh sparrow nests should be hatching in the next few days.  The next week or two will likely be the best time to confirm breeding in this species as females will be collecting food and ferrying it to their young.  Saltmarsh sparrows are unusual in that their nesting can be highly synchronized - this happens following the simultaneous failure of almost all active nests during high spring tides, which happened in Connecticut a couple of weeks ago.  After those failures, females all renest on the same schedule, synchronizing nesting across a region.  This synchronizing is not as extreme in seaside sparrows, but you can expect many of them to be starting to feed young in the next week too.
Also, I wanted to remind people to be careful about using the P (= breeding pair) breeding code.  I've noticed that it has been used several times recently for saltmarsh sparrow, even though the sexes cannot be distinguished by plumage and the species does not form pairs.  Saltmarsh sparrows have no pair bonds and the sexes come together only to mate.  Females do all nest building, incubation, and parental care.  Most females mate with at least 2 (and often more) males, so that a single nest often includes chicks all of which have different fathers. 

Seaside sparrows do form pairs, but there are still few cases when the P breeding code would be appropriate as the two sexes cannot be identified by plumage. 

My lab's field team has confirmed nesting in both species at Hammonasset, East River, and in the block that encompasses most of Barn Island, but we are not working at other sites this year.  So, observations of adults of either species carrying food, or of recently fledged young, from any other coastal marsh would be really good additions to the atlas database - especially given the concerns about the future of these two species.


Chris Elphick @ssts
Storrs, CT
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