Select map overlays
Song Sparrow, Bob Shettler
Photo © Bob Shettler

Photo: Bob Shettler
Breeding evidence - Song Sparrow
Breeding evidence
Relative abundance - Song Sparrow
Relative abundance
Probability of observation - Song Sparrow
Probability of observation

Click for a larger version or to add map overlays

Song Sparrow
Melospiza melodia
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Conserv. status:
SRANK: Abundant Breeder (S5B)
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
381 564 902 7739
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Manitoba1970 - 2015 0.256 (-0.403 - 0.832)High
Canada1970 - 2015 -1.05 (-1.35 - -0.78)High

Mean abundance (number of birds detected per 5 min. point count) and percentage of squares occupied by region

Bird Conservation Regions [abund. plot] [%squares plot]
Arctic Plains and MountainsBoreal Hardwood TransitionBoreal Softwood Shield
0.00% 0.3490% 0.2144%
Boreal Taiga PlainsPrairie PotholesTaiga Shield and Hudson Plains
0.4769% 0.3997% 0.2419%

Characteristics and Range A familiar sparrow with a bright and cheerful song, this species is one of the first migrants to greet Manitobans each spring. One of the most widespread songbirds in North America, it can be found breeding from Newfoundland to the Aleutians, and as far south as Northern Mexico. It winters from southern Alaska, South Dakota, and southern Québec south to northern Mexico and Florida. Song Sparrows show an exceptional amount of geographic variation, with 52 subspecies proposed and about 24 currently recognized (Arcese et al. 2002).

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat Atlassers documented a similar distribution to that shown in The Birds of Manitoba, with the species breeding throughout most of the province. A key difference is the species was detected across the far north, to the Nunavut land border, except in the Arctic Plains & Mountains. The species was most abundant in the Boreal Taiga Plains, followed by the Prairie Potholes and Boreal Hardwood Transition. In the Boreal Taiga Plains, its high abundance follows the boreal-parkland transition and decreases northward. Likewise, relative abundance generally decreased northward in Manitoba, with locally higher numbers in human settlements and along rivers, lakes, and roads.

Song Sparrows typically breed in brushy areas that border rivers, wetlands, and lakes, or along forest edges and openings, as well as in overgrown fields, farmsteads, and shrubby gardens. In the north, river corridors are a favoured breeding habitat; however, as remote fieldwork was concentrated along navigable rivers for practical reasons, some caution is required when comparing abundances in northern and southern Manitoba. The probability of observation shows a slightly different pattern from the relative abundance, with the highest likelihood of detection in the Prairie Potholes and generally decreasing northward and eastward into the boreal forest. This may suggest that the Song Sparrow is more widespread but at lower densities in southwestern Manitoba; however, other factors likely influenced this result.  Another possible explanation for the observed pattern is that greater early-season survey effort in southern Manitoba increased the rates of detection, as Song Sparrows establish territories before most other passerines.

Trends, Conservation, and Recommendations Certain populations of the Song Sparrow have been found to be declining, while others are increasing (Arcese et. al 2002). BBS data show a slight decline in Canada overall but no significant trend in Manitoba. Generally tolerant of urbanization, the species may increase in areas of new disturbance such as roadways or logging activity in boreal regions. In agricultural areas, the elimination of old farmsteads, idle field corners, shelterbelts, small sloughs, and other minor landscape irregularities can have a negative impact on the species (Arcese et. al 2002).

Janine McManus

Recommended citation: McManus, J. 2018. Song Sparrow in Artuso, C., A. R. Couturier, K. D. De Smet, R. F. Koes, D. Lepage, J. McCracken, R. D. Mooi, and P. Taylor (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Manitoba, 2010-2014. Bird Studies Canada. Winnipeg, Manitoba [22 May 2024]

Birds Canada Privacy Policy | Accessibility Policy
Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas, Bird Studies Canada, Box 24-200 Saulteaux Cr Winnipeg, MB R3J 3W3
Phone: 1-888-448-2473 E-mail:
Banner photo: Christian Artuso