Thursday, October 18, 2007

White-crowned Sparrows--Zonotrichia leucophrys

White-crowned Sparrow at Central Park by Alice's Breakfast in the ParkA White-crowned Sparrow at Central Park by Alice's Breakfast in the Park.

To me, the White-crowned Sparrow brings up pictures of leafless tangles of winter undergrowth. Twisted bare branches peppered with fast-moving little birds jumping quickly from one branch to the other. The "clear whistles and buzzy trills" of the White-crowned sparrow are the soundtrack of our Orange County autumns and winters. My old, worn copy of Golden Field Guide to Birds of North America described it perfectly. White-crowned Sparrows add mood and feeling to the winter landscape. They create ambiance.

White-crowned Sparrow looking for seeds
White-crowned Sparrow looking for seeds.

Their appearance is striking. Their heads have bold black stripes across a white crown. They raise their striped crown feathers in a small crest. They catch the eye. What else can sound so good and be so eye-catching in simply black-and-white?

White-crowned Sparrow Huntington Central Park. Crown feathers raised
White-crowned Sparrow Huntington Central Park. Crown feathers raised.

White-crowned sparrows feed on seeds on the ground. They hop around and flee into the underbrush when they sense danger near. They perch on posts and tree branches and sing that wonderful wintry song of "clear whistles and buzzy trills."

White-crowned Sparrow in Central Park in Huntington Beach
White-crowned Sparrow in Central Park in Huntington Beach. Crown feathers down.

When I hear those beautiful clear notes, I know the days of beautiful autumn leaves, cooler weather, pumpkins, Halloween, turkey, stuffing, yams, and spiced cider, and Christmas and pine needles are getting near. When the White-crowned Sparrow returns, I better get my Christmas list in order and start thinking of pumpkin pies.

Tangled winter undergrowth in which you might find White-Crowned Sparrows
Type of tangled winter undergrowth in which you might find White-Crowned Sparrows.

If you are bird watching in the fall or winter in Orange County, listen for the "clear whistles and buzzy trills" and look for the little black-and-white crown of the White-crowned Sparrow hopping through the undergrowth.

An Immature White-crowned Sparrow
An immature White-crowned Sparrow with brown instead of black stripes.

White-crowned Sparrow foraging in the leaf litter on the way to Alice's Breakfast in the Park at Huntington Central Park. You can hear the very loud geese honking in the background and people talking on their way to breakfast.

White-crowned Sparrow Links

Animal Diversity Web

Very Detailed information from the University of Michigan.

Bird Web: The Birds of Washington State--White-Crowned Sparrow

Great site with very good information including sounds of the Pacific subspecies of the White-Crowned Sparrow. Cornell has the Eastern.

Immature White-crowned Sparrow with brown stripes instead of black stripes

Birding Column: Sweet Song of the Winter Sparrows

Mathew Tekulsky "The Birdman of Bel Air" writes a column about his backyard birds for the National Geographic News. This column is all about the winter sparrows that come to his backyard. Good piece.

Cornell's All About Birds: White-Crowned Sparrow

Cornell Ornithology Lab's Bird Guide has great details on birds in the United States.

Migratory Sleeplessness in the White-Crowned Sparrow

A study on the way White-Crowned Sparrow don't get a lot of shut eye during migration. Seriously.

Mitton: Song dialects in white-crowned sparrows

Information about the song dialects of the White-Crowned Sparrow by Jeff Mitton who is chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado.

Scholarly Articles on the White-Crowned Sparrow

Believe it or not these little birdies have been studied a lot. Do females prefer a certain song, or other characteristics in a mate? The affect of hormones on the brain. And many more obscure studies of than would ever occur to me.

White-crowned Sparrow at Huntington Central Park on the West Side

US Geological Survey's Short Article on White-Crowned Sparrows

Good, short summary with small pictures that can be clicked to see larger photos.

Vireo White-crowned Sparrow Page

Short page that gives important details about White-crowned Sparrows and also shows pictures of similar sparrows.

White-crowned Sparrow among the Flowers Courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service
Courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service. I love this picture.

White-Crowned Sparrow Photographs

White-Crowned Sparrow Images by Mark Chappell

White-crowned Sparrow Videos

The Internet Bird Collection: White-Crowned Sparrow Videos

Seven White-Crowned Sparrow videos.

You-Tube White-crowned Sparrow Convention from the UK

Good video of lots of White-crowned Sparrows at a feeder in the UK. Good opportunity to hear song.

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