Jane’s Deck of Birds – White Throated Sparrow

This handsome sparrow has been called the ‘Whistler of the North’. It’s very easy to recognize their song as it sounds like they’re singing Oh Sweet Canada Canada Canada.

Photo Credits – Karen Arnold

The White- throated is a large sparrow measuring up to 7.5 inches. They have a rust-brown back, grey bellies, stripes on their head and a vibrant lemon yellow patch over their eyes. These sparrows are polymorphic which means they have two colour phases. Some have head stripes that are
black and white, while others have tan coloured stripes. Both morphs are common and occur in equal numbers.

Photo Credits – James DeMers

Their habitat includes coniferous and mixed forests, woodlots, thickets and shrubs… they dislike open areas. The nest is built by the female usually close to the ground and concealed in a brush pile or shrub. It is cup shaped and composed of pine needles, twigs, grasses, rootlets and lined with deer or rabbit fur. The eggs are bluish or greenish white with lavender or brown
spotting. Three to five eggs are laid and incubated for 12-14 days by the female. The nestlings will fledge the nest 7-12 days later.

Photo Credits – Andrew Cannizzaro

An interesting fact shows that White-throated sparrows prefer to mate with the opposite colour morph. However, both females prefer to mate with the tan-striped males. Tan-striped parents tend to feed their young more often than the white-striped. Both female and male white-striped
sing whereas the male tan-striped sings less and the female not at all.
White-throated sparrows will migrate in the fall to the southern US and return to their northern breeding grounds in New England and Canada in early April.

Photo Credits – Skeeze

The dominant white-striped males will winter further north and populations of White-throated Sparrows will over winter in the Maritimes. White-throated Sparrows prefer to forage on the ground for food. They exhibit fancy footwork kicking up to four times with both feet looking for insects, berries and seeds buried under leaf litter. They will also visit ground feeders to enjoy their favourite sunflower, cracked corn and
millet seeds. You can also entice them by spreading seed on the ground under cedar hedges and shrubs.

White-Throated Sparrow – Song

I hope this information will help you enjoy and appreciate these attractive sparrows.

Happy Birding!

Author – Jane Paradis

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