Description 6 - 7 1/2" Crown
has bold black and white stripes.
Upperparts streaked, underparts
clear pearly gray. Pink bill.
Young birds similar, but crown
stripes buff and dark brown,
underparts washed with dull buff.
Habitat Nests in dense brush,
especially near open grasslands;
winters in open woods and gardens.
Their territories are usually small,
and they will breed in small patches
of habitat in the middle of a city.
Diet In the winter, White-crowned
Sparrows eat seeds, grass, buds,
fruits, and arthropods.
During the breeding season,
arthropods make up a larger
proportion of the diet.
Nesting Males generally arrive on
the breeding grounds before
females. The males sing to defend
their territories and attract mates.
The female builds a nest that is a
bulky cup of bark strips, grass, and
twigs, lined with grass and hair, on or
near the ground.
The female lays and incubates the 3
to 7 pale green eggs, thickly spotted
with brown, for 11 to 14 days.
Both parents feed the young, which
leave the nest at 8 to 10 days after
The young begin to fly about 7 to 10
days after leaving the nest and start
finding their own food at about that
time as well. Depending on species,
2 to 3 broods per year.
Range Breeds from Alaska and
Manitoba east to Labrador and
Newfoundland, and south in western
mountains to northern New Mexico
and central California.
Winters north to southern Alaska,
Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, and
Voice Short series of clear
whistles followed by buzzy notes.
Discussion The handsome
White-crown is a favorite not only of
bird-watchers but of laboratory
scientists. Much of what we know
about the physiology of bird migration
has been learned from laboratory
experiments with this species.
The northern, northwestern, and
mountain subspecies of
White-crowned Sparrows have
slightly different head patterns and
songs. Song dialects vary locally as
In the Arctic, where the sun does not
set during the breeding season,
these sparrows sing all night long;
however, White-crowns farther south
in the Pacific Northwest, also sing
frequently during the dark May nights.
In the East, these birds are much
less numerous than White-throated
Sparrows, but flocks of White-throats
often contain a few of these slender,