The white-crowned sparrow is a widespread bird and despite some regional variations in its plumage color and markings, it is one of the easiest sparrows to identify.
- Bill: Small, sharp, pale yellow or pink
- Size: 7 inches long with 10-inch wingspan, long tail
- Colors: Black, white, gray, buff, brown
- Markings: Male and female birds are similar. The head is boldly striped in black and white with the appearance of a white eyebrow. The back and wings are brownish with darker brown or mottled black streaking, and there are two spotted white wing bars. The throat is pale gray, and the chest is slightly darker gray leading to a whiter abdomen. A buff wash may be seen along the lower flanks.
Habitat and Migration:
White-crowned sparrows are widespread birds in brushy habitats such as sparse woodlands and wet meadows. They can be found during the summer ranging throughout northern Canada and the higher elevations of western mountain ranges in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Most northern populations will migrate seasonally, wintering in the central and southern United States and throughout Mexico. Year-round populations can be found along the Pacific coast as well as in Utah, northern Nevada and western Colorado.
The white-crowned sparrow sings with a high whistle and buzz call that may be heard at any time of day and even into the night, particularly when males are singing to claim territory. A high “pink-pink-pink-pink-pink” call is also common.
Like most small birds, white-crowned sparrows are shy during nesting season, when they are found alone or in pairs. After the breeding season ends, family groups will forage together and larger flocks will form during the winter months. These are ground-feeding birds that will scratch at the soil with both feet simultaneously, giving them a backward hopping gait while foraging.
These are generally monogamous birds, and some pairs may even mate for life. The female will incubate a nest of 2-6 eggs for 11-14 days, and both parents feed the altricial young for 7-12 days. The male parent may do the majority of the nestling care while the female starts a second brood of eggs, and mated pairs will produce up to 4 broods annually in mild climates.
Attracting White-Crowned Sparrows:
These sparrows will regularly visit feeders that offer sunflower seeds or millet in ground feeders, or they will feed on spilled seed beneath hanging or pole feeders. Adding a brush pile or low shrubs nearby will help the birds feel more secure.
- White-Throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
- Golden-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)
- Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus)
Photo – White-Crowned Sparrow © Pbonenfant