This is a rather large sparrow with a plain front. The adult’s diagnostic feature is its bold black and white striped head. It has a yellowish bill. The juveniles are a bit tougher to identify since their head stripes are brown and tan and their beaks pinkish.
Often foraging on the ground, the white-crowned sparrow will hop rapidly back and forth, exposing seeds and insects in the leaf litter. The birds learn to sing not from parents directly, but from the general sound environment where they are raised; thus dialects form and “bilingualism” has even been documented!
What brings it to the SBG?
Food and cover during migration and perhaps in winter. A small flock of white-crowned sparrows visited the SBG in late fall of 2014, flitting in the brushy undergrowth that is its preferred habitat during migration. The bird’s preferred foods include many seeds and fruits and some insects, plentiful in the autumn SBG habitat.
When can I see it?
Mainly during fall and spring migration. Range maps show that its wintering grounds are just south of our area. The White-Crowned Sparrow nests far north in the Arctic.