Savannah Sparrow princeps subspecies
(Passerculus sandwichensis princeps)


Picture of bird
© Grant Milroy
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

Although there are currently 17 recognised subspecies of Savannah Sparrow that span the North American continent (Wheelwright and Rising 2008), the princeps (or "Ipswich") subspecies is endemic to Canada and breeds almost exclusively on Sable Island, Nova Scotia. It is known to occasionally interbreed with other Savannah Sparrow subspecies and to nest sporadically on mainland Nova Scotia (COSEWIC 2009b). The breeding population is monitored by organised censuses and surveys on the island. Results of those surveys indicate that abundance has increased since 1970, with a doubling of the total population. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada assessed the princeps subspecies as Special Concern due to its vulnerability to threats from sea level rise, increasing frequency of Atlantic storms and development pressure on shoreline wintering habitats (COSEWIC 2009b). With 100% of the global breeding population, Canada's responsibility for the subspecies is very high. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.

See also:

Savannah Sparrow


Listing of the main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Special Concern2009Savannah Sparrow princeps subspecies
SARA (Canada)Special Concern2003Savannah Sparrow princeps subspecies
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic areaStatusReliability
CanadaLarge IncreaseHigh

Population estimate

Canada5,000 to 50,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation of world population

CanadaVery High

Conservation and management

Listed by both the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as Special Concern, conservation of this subspecies has been a focus of efforts since the 1960s. Sable Island, Nova Scotia, is designated as a Migratory Bird Sanctuary and is a National Park Reserve, providing effective protection from human encroachment or development for the breeding population. Restriction of the subspecies' breeding population to a single island makes it vulnerable to local and chance events such as sea level rise and severe weather events (COSEWIC 2009b). Parts of the wintering grounds are also protected but evaluation of the effectiveness of habitat protection efforts is hampered by a lack of understanding of the bird's microhabitat needs (COSEWIC 2009b). The most important threats to the subspecies are destruction of wintering habitat and severe weather during the migration and wintering period (COSEWIC 2009b). For information on the legal status of this species under SARA and to view available recovery documents, see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Atlantic Northern ForestsAtlantic Northern Forests, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic Region - Nova Scotia