White-throated Sparrow is Not Just Another Little Brown Bird

White-throated Sparrow is the Beautiful Whistler of the North

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There always seems to be a flurry of little brown birds at our feeders, so I was thrilled to see my favorite little brown bird, the White-throated Sparrow making its highly anticipated seasonal debut.

The White-throated Sparrows return was a bit delayed this fall, and I was beginning to worry that these beautiful winter birds have forsaken me.

Was the millet I left for them last year not up to par?

Did my fall clean up not leave them enough brushy retreats?

I promised to make bigger brush piles if they return.

Then finally, my favorite winter bird’s prayer was answered.

I was thrilled to see my favorite little brown bird, the White-throated Sparrow making its highly anticipated seasonal debut.
I was thrilled to see my favorite little brown bird, the White-throated Sparrow making its highly anticipated seasonal debut.

My heart skipped a beat when I spotted my first White-throated Sparrow frolicking in the leaf litter under the pine tree.

Is it? Could it be?

Yes! The White-throated Sparrows have arrived.

Yes, they’re sparrows. But there’s something special about these birds I love.

Handsome Species

It’s a challenge identifying sparrows since they have only a subtle difference in plumage.

And here in New York, we have several varieties ranging from Fox Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows, and White-crowned Sparrows.

But the White-throated Sparrow stands out from the rest.

These birds are more rounded than other sparrows.

This handsome bird sports a black-and-white pattern on its head with a fashion-forward bib of white feathers covering their throat.

Their most exquisite feature is the bright yellow lore between their eyes and the bill.

Giving them that pop of color we enjoy seeing during the drab, colorless winter months, making them stand out among all the other little brown birds.

The White-throated Sparrow is a handsome bird sporting a black-and-white pattern on its head with a bib of white feathers covering their throat
The White-throated Sparrow is a handsome bird sporting a black-and-white pattern on its head with a bib of white feathers covering their throat

Most Beautiful Sparrow Song of All

Mirror, mirror on the wall, what sparrow has the most beautiful song of all?

That honor belongs to the White-throated Sparrow.

A species that breeds in northern areas where spruce and fur trees thrive.

The song of the males is simple, yet beautiful clear, pure whistles.

Listen to the White-throated Sparrows song here from Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library.

The whistles are even but typically move slightly up or down in pitch by the second or third note. The whole song lasts about 4 seconds.

Most songs end with whistles composed of three pulses (triplets).

The song’s cadence follows a familiar song pattern of two popular memory phrases: Oh-sweet-Canada-Canada-Canada or Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody-Peabody.

Attracting White-throated Sparrow to Your Yard

Like most sparrows, the White-throated Sparrow prefers to forage on the ground for food.

We purchase an ample supply of millet seed to keep our White-throated Sparrows happy.

And when filling the bird feeders, we’re mindful about scattering handfuls of millet seed under our feeders.

White-throated Sparrows prefer foraging on the ground for food so scatter handfuls of millet seed under your feeders
White-throated Sparrows prefer foraging on the ground for food so scatter handfuls of millet seed under your feeders

Make sure to scatter millet seed near the edges of brushy areas and under the pine tree in the leaf litter, offering birds access to quick, dense cover if they feel threatened.

The White-throated Sparrows romp in our pine trees and use them for shelter.

We enjoy seeing the White-throated Sparrows pop out from under the pine tree to grab the millet seed and venture into our view.

Keeping White-throated Sparrows Content

Be sure to provide plenty of brushy retreats for your birds.

Create brush piles mixing in leaves, twigs, and other trimmings from your fall cleanup.

Brush piles become ecosystems for birds where they feel safe.

And become a popular gathering place for sparrows, wrens, kinglets, and other small songbirds.

And you’re helping the birds as brush piles lessen the impact of cold winter winds and help them survive deadly arctic polar vortexes.

Our feeders are often overrun with sparrows, so it’s easy to overlook these beautiful birds.

But I think you’ll agree that the White-throated Sparrow stands out among other brown birds.

These birds have charming good looks and a voice like Pavarotti that projects one of the most beautiful bird songs of them all.

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