The white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) is a medium-sized passerine bird, measuring around 6-7 inches in length and weighing between 0.8-1.3 ounces. This bird is easily recognizable due to its striking black and white stripes on its head, with a distinctive white crown stripe bordered by black stripes on either side. The rest of its body is grayish-brown with darker streaks on its back and wings, and a pinkish bill.
One of the most notable features of the white-crowned sparrow is its beautiful and complex song, which is often described as a series of clear whistles followed by trills and buzzes. The male’s song is particularly impressive, and it is used to defend its territory and attract a mate during breeding season.
The white-crowned sparrow is a migratory bird, spending its winters in the southern parts of the United States and Mexico, and breeding in the northern parts of North America, including Alaska and Canada. During migration, these birds can travel thousands of miles, often in flocks that can number in the hundreds or thousands. They typically arrive at their breeding grounds in late April or early May, and begin nesting soon after.
These birds prefer open habitats such as grasslands, brushy fields, and forest edges, where they forage on the ground for seeds, insects, and other small invertebrates. During breeding season, they will also eat some fruit and nectar. The white-crowned sparrow is known for its adaptability and can be found in a variety of different habitats, from suburban gardens to high-altitude mountain meadows.
Overall, the white-crowned sparrow is a charismatic and beloved bird, with its beautiful markings and intricate song making it a favorite of many birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. Its ability to travel long distances during migration also makes it an important part of the ecological system, helping to disperse seeds and pollinate plants as it moves from place to place.