Living Bird Magazine
White-crowned SparrowZonotrichia leucophrys
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Passerellidae
White-crowned Sparrows appear each winter over much of North America to grace our gardens and favorite trails (they live in parts of the West year-round). The smart black-and-white head, pale beak, and crisp gray breast combine for a dashing look – and make it one of the surest sparrow identifications in North America. Watch for flocks of these sparrows scurrying through brushy borders and overgrown fields, or coax them into the open with backyard feeders. As spring approaches, listen out for this bird’s thin, sweet whistle.More ID Info
Find This Bird
The White-crowned Sparrow is a winter bird across much of the U.S (exceptions are the West Coast and mountains of the West). Start looking for these birds to arrive sometime in September, and they’ll be in fields, along roadsides, in low foliage at trail edges, or hopping around the margins of your yard until March or April.
- Gorrión Corona Blanca (Spanish)
- Bruant à couronne blanche (French)
White-crowned Sparrows come to feeders for sunflower and other kinds of seeds – though they may be more likely to stay on the ground eating seeds dropped by other birds. Making a brush pile in your yard is another good way to encourage this species to spend more time in your yard. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
- Cool Facts
- A young male White-crowned Sparrow learns the basics of the song it will sing as an adult during the first two or three months of its life. It does not learn directly from its father, but rather from the generalized song environment of its natal neighborhood.
- A migrating White-crowned Sparrow was once tracked moving 300 miles in a single night. Alaskan White-crowned Sparrows migrate about 2,600 miles to winter in Southern California.
- Scientists interested in movement and energetics have discovered that White-crowned Sparrows can run on a treadmill at a pace of about one-third of a mile an hour without tiring out.
- White-crowned Sparrows will share their territories with Fox Sparrows, but chase Chipping Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos until they leave.
- Male White-crowned Sparrows do most of the singing, but sometimes females also sing. They usually do this while contesting breeding territories or a winter food source. Their songs are quieter and more variable than male’s songs.
- Because male White-crowned Sparrows learn the songs they grow up with and typically breed close to where they were raised, song dialects frequently form. Males on the edge of two dialects may be bilingual and able to sing both dialects.
- The oldest recorded White-crowned Sparrow lived in California and was at least 13 years, 4 months old.