Get acquainted with this one-of-a-kind backyard bird!
Birders may spot White-crowned Sparrows by both their distinct appearance and their tendency to gather together. Unfortunately, despite being widespread, White-crowned Sparrows are decreasing in population. The North American Breeding Bird Survey reported that the species saw a 29% decline between 1966-2012. A 2019 study expanded upon this and found that the decline may be due to the birds ingesting neonicotinoid (neonic), a dangerous pesticide. Ingestion of the pesticide has caused them to stop eating and lose weight, which prevented them from being able to migrate south for the winter.
The American Bird Conservancy is dedicated to protecting the nesting and wintering habitats, as well as migration stopover sites of all wild birds, including the White-crowned sparrow. ABC’s BirdsScapes program offers additional information on their approach to conservation.
The White-crowned Sparrow’s song is a thin, sweet whistle that usually emanates from the males. An interesting fact about young males is that they learn the basics of their signature songs within the first two to three months of their lives but can also learn neighboring birds’ songs. This makes then a special sort of bilingual bird.
Feeding the White-Crowned Sparrow
Although they enjoy burrowing in brushy orders and overgrown fields, White-crowned Sparrows can be coaxed into the open with backyard feeders. Their diet varies according to the season. In the winter they tend to feed on grass and weed seeds, buds, fruit, and sunflower seeds under bird feeders. During breeding season, they add insects and other arthropods to their palates.
Some of White-crowned Sparrows’ favorite foods are black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, cracked corn, millet, and milo. A tip for birders looking to encourage them to their backyards is to make a brush pile and place a ground feeder nearby. These birds often stay on the ground and have a tendency to eat seeds dropped by other birds. Creating a habitat that mimics that of their natural surroundings may help keep them close in your backyard.
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Article by Elinor Cohen