White-throated Sparrow

Zonotrichia albicollis


Early Spring Date: March 1
Late Spring Date: May 30
Most Frequently Seen: April 21 - May 5

White-throated Sparrows are winter residents in the Washington metro area who breed in the northern United States and Canada. They are extremely common at Monticello Park, especially in most of April and the first week in May. In addition to the ones who winter in the Washington Area, others stop at the park while heading north to nest.

Where to See Them in the Park

White-throated Sparrows spend a lot of time on the ground and low in bushes. You can see them in good numbers virtually anywhere in the park.

Physical Description


White-throated Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow - Photo by William Higgins

Many adult White-throated Sparrows are relatively easy to identify. They have a black-and-white striped crown and a yellow spot near the eye. The face is gray, and the throat is white.

White-throated Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Some White-throated Sparrows have a tan-and-brown crown rather than a black-and-white one. Most White-throated Sparrows prefer to mate with a bird of the opposite color pattern. Because the markings on the head do not stand out as much on tan-and-brown sparrows, they can be more difficult to identify. The tan birds still have a white throat.

White-throated Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow - Photo by Ashley Bradford

White-throated Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow - Photo by William Young

White-throated Sparrows often go into the stream to bathe.

White-throated Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow - Photo by Ashley Bradford

White-throated Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow - Photo by Ashley Bradford

White-throated Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow - Photo by Ashley Bradford

White-throated Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Vocalizations

The song of the White-throated Sparrow has different mnemonics, depending upon which side of the US-Canada border you live. North of the border, Canadians think the bird is singing Oh Sweet Canada Canada Canada, while south of the border, people think the bird is singing Old Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody. The call consists of loud chips.

Hear the vocalizations of the White-throated Sparrow.

Notes

The tan-and-brown birds are a color morph of the White-throated Sparrow. A morph is a variation that may occur within a species; members of the morph occupy the same habitat and engage in random mating with other members of the species. A morph is roughly the same as a phase. Morphs are different from races and subspecies, which involve differences within a species based on geographic separation, sexual selection, or other factors.

Origin of Names

Common Names: White-throated from the plumage. Sparrow from the Anglo-Saxon spearwa, which means "flutterer".
Genus Name: Zonotrichia means "banded thrush".
Species Name: Albicollis means "white-necked".

White-throated Sparrow video footage

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