Zonotrichia leucophrys
(White-crowned Sparrow)

Order: Passeriformes
Order Description: Passerines
Family: Emberizidae
Family Description: Blackbirds, Orioles, & Sparrows

Physical Description:
5 1/2-7" (14-18 cm). Black-and-white striped crownClick word for definition; gray neck and breast; brown back, tail, and belly; white wing bars. Immatures have brown and buffClick word for definition head stripes.

Similar Species- White-throated Sparrow

One long whistle followed by wheezy trills on different pitches.

Breeds from northern Alaska, east across portions of Canada, and south to southern California, Nevada, central Arizona, and northern New Mexico. Winters from southern British Columbia, southeastern Washington, southern Idaho, Wyoming, and portions of Midwest and East, south to southern Baja California, southern mainland of Mexico, and Gulf Coast.

Found in open woodlands, burnt-over areas in forests, brushy areas, brushy subalpine meadows, willow thickets along streams or lakes, parks, and farmland. Idaho study found White-crowned Sparrows preferred dry, tall-willow portions of riparian communities.

Feeds primarily on seeds of grasses and weeds (e.g., ragweed, pigweed, goosefoot, and panicum). Also feeds on invertebrates (e.g., ants, caterpillars, true bugs, beetles, spiders, and snails), especially in summer.

Builds cup-shaped nest in shrub or on ground. Large proportion of nests and nestlings may be lost to predators (e.g. garter snakes) in even a stable population. diurnalClick word for definition and crepuscularClick word for definition, but mostly inactive for several hours daily in continuous daylight at high latitudes. Forages on ground, or may take insects from foliage or air. May form flocks in winter, of 10-20 birds in southeastern U.S., 30-50 in West. Species is 1 of 7 neotropical migrants thought to be declining in Idaho.

Female incubatesClick word for definition 2-5 eggs (rarely 6), for 9-15 days. Young are tended by both parents, leave nest in 9-11 days, and are fed to some degree for additional 25-30 days. On California coast, females may produce several broodsClick word for definition annually.

Element Code: ABPBXA4040
Status: Protected nongame species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5,NTMB
National Rank: N5B,N5N

Important State References:
Douglas, D.C., J.T. Ratti, R.A. Black, and J.R. Alldredge. 1992. Avian habitat associations in riparian zones of Idaho's Centennial Mountains. Wilson Bull. 104:485- 500.

Photo by George Jameson, ©2002.
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.
Written by Jason Karl, 2000.