MacGillivray’s seaside sparrows
Macgillivray’s seaside sparrow (Photo credit: Fish and Wildlife Service)

In salt marshes along the southeastern U.S. coast, you may hear the call of MacGillivray’s seaside sparrows. These tiny birds build their nests in marsh grass.

“But as the sea level rises, their nests get flooded more and more often, which causes the death of their offspring, and so they have to start all over when they’re nesting,” Corina Newsome says.

Newsome is a graduate student at Georgia Southern University. She says that when a sparrow’s nest is flooded, it builds its next nest higher up off the ground.

“But the problem with that,” she says, “is that when they build their nests higher, they are more visible to predators.”

Those predators include mink, rice rats, and raccoons. So near Brunswick, Georgia, Newsome is using cameras to monitor the birds’ nests and predator activity.

“My project is focusing on understanding how the threat varies across their breeding habitat,” she says.

Newsome says her study will give wildlife managers information they can use to better protect sparrows, for example, by building structures that shield sensitive areas.

“There is hope because there are a variety of management strategies that can be employed,” she says.

And those strategies can help seaside sparrows have a better chance of surviving as the climate changes.

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Avatar photo

Sara Peach

Sara Peach is the editor-in-chief of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist,...