First identified in 1868, the name comes from the fact that the discoverer, C J Maynard, shot one on the beach at Ipswich, Massachusetts. Initially misidentified as Baird's Sparrow, Maynard later (1872) recognised it as a new species & gave it the latin name Passerculus princeps, although it also seems to have been known by some as Ammodramus princeps maynard (see Jonathan Dwight's The Ipswich Sparrow & it's summer home 1895)
Initially thought of as a separate species, modern DNA testing now shows that the Ipswich Sparrow is in fact a subspecies of the Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis). The two subspecies do sometimes interbreed. The Ipswich Sparrow now has the scientific name Passerculus sandwichensis princeps.
Photograph by Allan Murrant, taken from the Cape Breton Birds website www.capebretonbirds.ca
The Ipswich Sparrow is paler & larger than the Savannah Sparrow, with light grey plumage, grey-brown back & narrow pale brown streaks on a white breast. In spring & summer they develop a yellow stripe above the eye. Males & females are similar in appearance.
Sable Island, off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, is the Ipswich Sparrow's main breeding ground, with an estimated population of around six thousand. Nesting on heaths or beach dunes, some birds remain on Sable Island during the winter, while others migrate south down the Atlantic seaboard.
Due to erosion of their habitat & human disturbance, the status of the Ipswich Sparrow is classified as vulnerable.
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