Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the white-crowned sparrow.
Determining the species of a sparrow can be a challenging task. Is the chest streaked or plain, the tail long or short, the head patterned, the eye ringed with white, the beak light or dark? All these observations to make on a bird that doesn’t sit still very long. Sometimes it just joins the group called LBBs (little brown birds). But the bold black and white stripes on the head of the adult white-crowned sparrow make this bird stand out among the more than 12 sparrow species that can be seen here.
The white-crowned is a large sparrow with a long tail, small pink or yellow bill, plain gray breast and streaked brown back. It is found close to the ground where brushy hiding places meet open grassy areas good for foraging. They eat the seeds of weeds and grasses, insects, small fruits and berries. On the ground, this sparrow uses a double scratch hop to uncover food. These sparrows are most commonly seen here in spring and fall, usually in flocks, and spend the summer at higher elevations.
White-crowned sparrows have been studied extensively to increase our understanding of how birds learn songs. Local populations will learn their own distinct accent.
Like many birds that feed on seeds, they can be adversely affected by pesticides sprayed on food crops.
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