White Throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow, Vancouver Island, BC
White-Throated Sparrow, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

The White-Throated Sparrow is a medium-sized sparrow with rust-brown striped upperparts, conspicuous white throat, and plain gray underparts. The head has a black and white striped crown and yellow spots between the eyes and bill. Short flights, alternates rapid wing beats with wings pulled to sides.

The white-throated sparrow breeds from Mackenzie, central Quebec, and Newfoundland south to North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Spends winters in much of the eastern U.S. and in small numbers in southwestern states. Nests in brushy or semi-open mixed woods, winters on wood lots, scrublands, gardens, and backyards. Frequently visits bird feeders. White-throated Sparrows prefer to breed in coniferous and mixed woodlands, especially those with openings and thick undergrowth. Second growth after logging or fire is their favorite type of breeding habitat.

Although not a very common visitor to the Pacific Northwest Coastal Region, I had one at one of my feeders for over 2 weeks this fall.

During the fall and winter, the White-throated Sparrow feeds on small seeds and berries. Insects are a more important food source during the summer months, although greens and fruit are still a part of the sparrow’s diet.

The male sings to defend a territory and attract potential mates. Early spring nests are often in a small shrub bush or on a bracken fern copus, and late spring nests are generally on the ground beneath a bush, often a blueberry bush. The female builds the nest which is cup-shaped and constructed out of grasses, rootlets, sticks, and lined with fine grass, feathers, and animal hair. The female incubates up to 5 eggs for about 14 days. Both parents then feed the young, which leave the nest by 9 days after hatching. The adults continue to feed and tend the young for at least two more weeks. Four to five days after the young fledge, they can make short flights, and within a week they are strong fliers.

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