White-throated SparrowZonotrichia albicollis

adult (bright)
Robert Royse/VIREO
immature (1st winter)
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult (bright)
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult (drab)
Garth McElroy/VIREO
immature (1st winter)
John McKean/VIREO
White-throated Sparrow

Description

6-7" (15-18 cm). Upperparts streaked, underparts clear gray. There are 2 color forms, one with black and white head stripes, the other with tan and black head stripes. Both have sharply defined white throat patch; dark bill. Females and young birds are duller. Similar White-crowned Sparrow lacks white throat patch, is slimmer, and has a pink bill.

Voice

Song a clear, whistled Poor Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody, or Sweet Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada. The latter rendition is perhaps more appropriate, since most of these birds breed in Canada.

Listen

songs #1
songs #2
two call types
early autumn subsong & calls

Habitat

Brushy undergrowth in coniferous woodlands. Winters in brush woodlands, pastures, and suburban areas.

Range

Breeds from Mackenzie, central Quebec, and Newfoundland south to North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Winters in much of eastern United States and in small numbers in southwestern states.

Discussion

This very common sparrow is known in the United States primarily as a winter visitor and a migrant. During the colder months every hedgerow and thicket seems to be filled with White-throats, and on warm days one can readily hear their plaintive song. When evening comes and they gather to roost in dense thickets, their silvery flocking call is almost as evocative as their song.

Nesting

4 or 5 pale green eggs, heavily spotted with brown, in a cup of grass, rootlets, and moss on or near the ground in forest undergrowth.

Similar Species

adult, Atlantic

Seaside Sparrow

6" (15 cm). A dark, gray-streaked salt-marsh sparrow with dull yellow "mustache" and dull yellow spot in front of the eye.

adult, California

Song Sparrow

5-7" (13-18 cm). Heavy brown streaking on white underparts, with prominent central breast spot (sometimes lacking in juveniles).

adult, nonbreeding

Golden-crowned Sparrow

6-7" (15-18 cm). Similar to White-crowned Sparrow. Male's gold crown bordered by wide black cap. Dusky bill. Brown above, with unstreaked gray breast, cheek, and collar; 2 white wing bars.

adult, Eastern

White-crowned Sparrow

6-7 1/2" (15-19 cm). Similar to White-throated Sparrow, but more slender, without white throat, and generally with a more erect posture. Crown has bold black and white stripes.

adult, breeding

Harris's Sparrow

7 1/2" (19 cm). Adult has black crown, throat, and chest; pink bill; gray face; brown back, wings, and tail; and white abdomen with spotted or streaked sides.

Vireo

iPad Promo