Backyard Birds

White-throated Sparrows

The White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) are migratory American sparrows that occur naturally in Canada and southern USA.

These sparrows follow a well-defined hierarchy, which puts males ahead of females and older sparrows ahead of younger birds.

Distribution / Range

White-throated Sparrows breed in in central Canada and New England; and migrate south to southern United States for the winter.

They are rare vagrants to Western Europe.


White-throated Sparrows measure 17 cm in length, including its long tail.

They are easily identified by their reddish-brown wings and white throats.

There are two types – one has white stripes on its crown (the more common form) and the other has tan stripes and a browner head.

Those with white stripes tend to be more vocal and aggressive than those with tan stripes.

Adult sparrows go through two molts a year – in late summer and late winter. Juveniles undergo three molts in their first year – referred to as first plumage-cycle.

Diet / Feeding

White-throated Sparrows forage on the ground under or near thickets or in low vegetation. They mainly eat seeds, insects and berries.

They will also readily visit bird feeders, and are – in fact – the most widespread sparrows at feeders.

Nesting / Breeding

Their breeding habitats are deciduous or mixed forests. They nest either on the ground under shrubs or low in trees.

The average clutch consists of 3 to 5 brown-marked blue or green-white eggs.

Song and calls

The White-throated Sparrow’s song is described as a high monotone whistle with the rhythmic flowof oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada or a where are you Frederick, Frederick, Frederick.

The White-throated Sparrow also has at least two other calls, in addition to its song.

The oldest males are the ones that sing the most.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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