White-throated sparrow: new bird at the feeders

White-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) are new ground feeders in the garden this winter. The following photos were taken from February 12-15, a period of sub-zero temps in central New Jersey.


White-throated sparrows are winter residents in this area, so I don’t know why they haven’t visited the feeders before. Or maybe I wasn’t watching. According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they do migrate, breeding mostly in the boreal forest up north and wintering in eastern and southern North America as well as California. Birds of New Jersey identifies white-throated sparrows as New Jersey winter residents but also calls their migration complete to southern states and Mexico. Today is February 18. I haven’t seen the white-throated sparrows since February 15, when the weather was very cold, so perhaps they moved on south to warmer temps.

Cornell Lab describes their song as Oh-sweet-canada. How cool is that. I can’t wait to report that I have heard it, now that I know what to listen for. Hopefully their song will become as familiar to me as the tufted titmouse call–their peter-peter-peter call has become easy for me to recognize.


White-throated sparrows have either white stripes or tan stripes alternating with black stripes on their crowns, small yellow spots between their eyes called lore, white throat patches, and grey tan chests and bellies. Juveniles may have heavily streaked breasts. These may be juveniles. Note the streaked breast in the photo above.

Above are photos of white-throated sparrows on the ground under the feeders with dark-eyed juncos, house finches, and a northern cardinal. I find it interesting that ground feeders seem so congenial while birds coming to the feeders are pushy and more competitive. Male house sparrows are the worst for hogging the feeders. House finches monopolize the feeders as well, mostly because there are so many of them. The jet set–chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches–rarely have a chance at the feeders, and they are not ground feeders, so they get left out. The jet set are my favorites among the feeder birds, but I don’t know how to give them a better chance at getting their share of sunflower seeds.

In the meantime, I hope to see white-throated sparrows again this winter under the feeders. I also look forward to identifying their Oh-sweet-Canada song.



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