One of the highlights of exploring Presque Isle County, Michigan, where I do my now annual NettieBay field expeditions, is the sparrow diversity. Sparrows all too often get short shrift, and are sometimes bemoaned as "LBJ's" (little brown jobs) that are tough to identify. They're really not great identification challenges, though, and under careful inspection all of them are quite showy in an understated way. Sparrows also don't generally get their due when it comes to the big picture ecological services that they provide.
We had a total of 12 species of sparrows in Presque Isle County this time around, and I managed photos of a few species.
ASIDE: I once read where some time management expert said a person should only spend an hour a day dealing with personal email. I wish. After ten days away, and almost no dealing with such correspondence, I returned to a boatload of messages. If you read this, and sent me something, and I haven't responded, sorry. I'll do my best to to reply, eventually.
The Savannah Sparrow is named for the city in Georgia where the type (first) specimen was taken. But the species has an enormous distribution, occurring over nearly the entire North American continent. Something like 17 subspecies are currently recognized, and proposals have been made to split a few of the "groups" into separate species. While Savannah Sparrows are not long distance migrants, migrate they do and in big numbers. I was once with some banders that caught something like 80 of them in a small Ohio wetland in October, in one morning.
Note the dominant grassy-looking vegetation that extends nearly from the water's edge to the gravelly dune at the right edge of the photo. It's an interesting plant species, and factors into the important role that Savannah Sparrows play ecologically. That swath of lakefront land between the water and the dune is a brutal place to grow. Ferocious storms crop up along the Great Lakes with regularity, and storm-driven waves batter the lakeshore. Most plants cannot deal with such an environment.
Foraging Savannah Sparrows in migration undoubtedly consume the fruit of Garber's sedge and other plants that occur along shorelines. The actual seed of a sedge is termed an achene, and they are hard and bony, and concealed within that fleshy-looking fruit. Perfect for surviving the ride through a sparrow's digestive tract, and many of the achenes no doubt eventually emerge intact from the sparrow's posterior end and often probably far distances from where the bird ate the fruit.
Over the LONG haul, which is how we really ought to look at nature and the environment, sparrows such as the Savannah play a major role in the dispersal of plants. Certain plants, such as the Garber's sedge, are probably intimately linked to certain birds such as the Savannah Sparrow and depend upon these feathered couriers to transport their seeds to new sites, thus starting new plant colonies.