White-Crowned Sparrows

White-crowned sparrows are fairly common in my area, but they’re still one of my favourite birds to watch. Seeing them together in a patch of grass looking for food as a flock reminds me of my dad’s old stories about birds from Portugal, and it’s sort of like seeing things through his eyes.

Identifying White-Crowned Sparrows

There is no mistaking these birds for anything else due to the distinct white and black feathers on their head.

Key regional differences include different bill colours and varying degrees of white in the head feathers. West coast sparrows tend to have a more yellow bill and duller white feathers, where the birds east of Hudson Bay have more of a pink bill.

Finding White-Crowned Sparrows

These sparrows love tangly, brushy bushes. They are also well-adapted to urban life in parks. In my experience, I’ve been equally likely to see them in coastal beach scrub as well as forest thickets.

Song of Its People

Like many birds, male white-crowned sparrows use songs and sounds to signify all kinds of things. They learn their songs from the general noise around their birthplace rather than from their parents. Because of this, different ‘dialects’ occur, with some birds being ‘bilingual’.

White-Crowned Sparrow, Boundary Bay, April 5, 2021
White-Crowned Sparrow, April 19, 2021

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