One of Our Snowbirds, The White-crowned Sparrow

Posted by Tom on 2/27/2018 to Learn More About Birds

With winter here we know snowbirds are here in southern Arizona. Now, I am not talking about the snowbirds who come in RV's, but those who migrate here for the same reasons - to avoid the cold and snowy weather.

The White-crowned Sparrow, with its striking black and white striped head, is one of the birds that indicate to us that fall is here. The first year birds will have a brown and white striped head when they arrive here, but by the time they head back north the crisp black and white pattern is apparent. He is one of the first sparrows that beginning bird watchers learn to identify when they come to their bird feeders.

Since the White-crowned Sparrow prefers to feed on the ground along tree and shrub lines their favorite feeder in our yard is the platform bird feeder. A mixed seed seems to attract then however they have been known to be drawn to grains such as oats, wheat, barley, and corn.

A young male White-crowned Sparrow learns the basics of the song it will sing as an adult during the first few months of its life. The song is developed from not only listening to its father, but he will pick up bits of the song from its neighbors. The birds will return to the same area to nest as they were hatched so the songs of the White-crowned Sparrow have regional dialects. If a young bird develops his song on the edge of two different dialects, the young bird will not combine the songs but may become bilingual learning two different dialects.

Another interesting fact about the White-crowned Sparrow is that it will share their territories with Fox Sparrows, but chase Chipping Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos until they leave. In our yard, we have three platform bird feeders so that all the sparrows can find a safe place to eat.

Our definition of "snowbirds" may not be the one that most people have, but in the world of birders, I'm sure that the White-crowned Sparrow is one of the welcomed snowbirds to their bird feeders.

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