Zonotrichia atricapilla

Another winter visitor that will be leaving us soon for the tundra and shrub-lands of British Columbia and Alaska is the golden-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla).  This migratory sparrow arrives in the western areas of Washington, Oregon and California earlier in the fall and returns north later than most migratory species.

As the days lengthen in the spring, photoreceptors on the golden-crowned sparrow’s body induce the accumulation of fat and stimulate preparation for migration.

Adult golden-crowned sparrows are identified by their black crown topped by a yellow patch. The head color is less distinct in the winter.

Spending much of their time on the ground in the winter, small flocks of golden-crowned sparrows scratch amid the leaf litter for insects and seeds.

These golden-crowned sparrow were photographed on the levee between Crystal and Baum Lakes (Lassen County CA).

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