"I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven."
Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

White-crowned Sparrows winter in Southern California

An adult White-crowned Sparrow forages for seeds on the ground.  Photo by J.J. Meyer
     You know it's winter in Orange County when you see flocks of White-crowned Sparrows hopping around your back yard.  They're one of the easiest sparrows to identify with its black and white striped head, pale beak and gray breast.  Juveniles have a reddish brown stripe instead of the white.
     Like most sparrows, they're ground feeders and prefer to stay close to the safety of trees and shrubs. White-crowned Sparrows will go 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. 
     Listen for the birds' beautiful thin, sweet whistle.  Male White-crowned Sparrows do most of the singing, but sometimes females also sing, though their songs are quieter and more variable than that of the males. They usually do this while contesting breeding territories or a winter food source.
    Alaskan White-crowned Sparrows migrate about 2,600 miles to winter in Southern California.  Welcome these visitors by tossing a handful of seeds or cracked corn on the ground and providing a source of fresh water.
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    Happy birding!

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