The Outdoor Journal by Kyle Carroll
Winter arrived last week in a pretty convincing way. What had been a mild and extra dry fall gave way to a coating of ice followed by three or four inches of snow in just a few days. If you have a bird feeder (or two) you have probably observed a big increase in the number of birds at your feeders since the cold, snow and ice arrived.
White-crowned sparrows are one of the species that we get to enjoy only in the winter months. These small birds spend their summers in northern Canada, Alaska and parts of the Rocky Mountain west. Across the arctic and subarctic portions of the species’ range, white-crowned sparrows nest on the tundra and have little choice but to put their nests on the ground, hidden among mats of mosses, lichens, and ground-hugging shrubs.
“White-crowned sparrows hop across the ground and through low foliage in brushy habitats. You may see them “double-scratching,” a move they share with towhees involving a quick hop backwards to turn over leaves followed by a forward hop and pounce. White-crowned sparrows come to feeders for sunflower and other kinds of seeds – though they may be more likely to stay on the ground eating seeds dropped by other birds. Making a brush pile in your yard is another good way to encourage this species to spend more time in your yard.” All About Birds – Cornell
White-crowned sparrows are sometimes confused with white-throated sparrows. Use your binoculars and a bird ID app or book and you’ll be able to distinguish the two pretty quickly.
White-crowned sparrows may be small but they travel long distances to get here.
A migrating white-crowned sparrow was once tracked moving 300 miles in a single night. Alaskan white-crowned sparrows migrate about 2,600 miles to winter in Southern California. So salute these little guys next time you see one out your window. They will be gone come spring.