Leonard and I always think of white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) as “winter birds”. White-crowned sparrows breed in Alaska and Arctic Canada and winter throughout much of the Lower United States. A couple populations remain along the Pacific Coast and in parts of the interior West throughout the year. However, sightings near our home in Northeastern California are limited to the cold months. For us, the arrival of white-crowned sparrows is a sure sign of autumn.
Adult male and female white-crowned sparrows look alike. Immatures, like their parents, have brownish upper parts and mostly pale grey underparts. Mature white-crowned sparrows are easily identified by their black and white striped crown. The white stripes stick out like a beacon. Without the distinctive black and white stripes, immature white-crowned sparrows require a second glance and are a little more difficult to identify, at least for me. The head of an immature is striped grey and reddish brown.
These immature white-crowned sparrows were part of a flock near the Crater Lake Lodge (Crater Lake National Park, Klamath County OR) in late September. White-crowned sparrows are typically seen in flocks.
“White-crowned Sparrow” posted on 10-04-2011 describes this winter visitor more completely.
As our summer residents depart, we always enjoy welcoming the winter birds.