White-crowned Sparrow (Photo: Tim/Wikimedia Creative Commons)

White-crowned Sparrow

Look For

The white-crowned sparrow’s plain gray throat and unmarked breast help set it apart from other sparrows. Sexes are similar, and the color of adults does not change seasonally. First-winter birds have brown and gray striped heads until the following spring and young birds will have tan striped heads. Your first impression of the white-crowned sparrow may be of a large gray sparrow with an erect posture. One look at the bold head stripes and clear gray throat, and you’ll know it can only be a white-crowned sparrow. White-crowned sparrows are 7 inches in length.

Listen For

White-crowned sparrows start their song with one or two clear notes followed by a series of burry, buzzy warbles that rise up the scale: you-can-be-so-cheez-ee! Call note is a bright seep!

Find It

The white-crowned sparrow can be described as the best-studied bird because of the characteristics that make it so striking to ornithologists. Their wide distributions, abundance over its range, and conspicuousness during its life cycle are just a few examples. In the East the white-crowned sparrow is most often seen in winter and during migration. Preferred winter habitat is in scrubby hedgerows along fields, woodland edges, and thickets, where it can be found in small flocks.

Feeding Behavior

The white-crowned sparrow is a very adaptable species and they are opportunistic feeders. Their diet consists of seeds, buds, grass, fruits, and arthropods.

Nesting Behavior

Female white-crowned sparrows do all of the work! Females pick the nesting site, construct the nest, and incubate her eggs for a period of 12 days. Females will help remove babies from their shells and consume shell fragments at the nest. Parents will induce fledging by refusing to feed their young at the nest. Young white-crowned sparrows will fledge 8.5 to 10 days but cannot fly for another one to two weeks.


In a 1962 experiment, several hundred white-crowned sparrows were trapped in California and released in Maryland. One year later, eight of them had found their way back.

Listen to the white-crowned sparrow:

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