White-throated sparrows are small birds. The head has black stripes on top, with grey below and on the sides. Some adults have tan between the black stripes, while others have white. Young birds in their first year always have tan on the head and have dark streaks on a pale chest and belly.
There are bright yellow blotches between the bill and the eyes on both males and females. True to their name, these sparrows have a "white-throat" with a black border, and a whitish belly. The back is brown with dark streaks and the wings are reddish-brown. White-throated sparrows have dark brown bills and pink legs. Females and males look very similar; female colors are only slightly duller than males.
White-crowned sparrows are other birds that look very similar, but do not have white throats and dark bills.
White-throated sparrows are native only to the Nearctic region. During the summer, white-throated sparrows generally breed from northwestern Canada including Central Quebec and Newfoundland, all the way eastward to Minnesota and the Great Lakes, and southward to New England. Most white-throated sparrows migrate south to spend the winter in the eastern United States, ranging from New England in the north to northern Mexico in the south. A very small number of birds migrate to west Oregon, occupying the Columbia and Klamath River Basins.
White-throated sparrows are found mainly in coniferous forests and northern decidious forests. In the winter they can also be found off the western coasts of Oregon, as well as in dry deserts in the state of Texas. They favor partially open wooded areas that have shrubby growth or brush. White-throated sparrows love to hide in brushy fencerows, in blackberry tangles, forest edges, shrubby willows, and even borders of swamps with a dense overgrowth of brush.
White-throated sparrows have their babies after the adult birds migrate north in the spring and have settled into northwestern Canada and northeastern United States. The birds build open-cup nests (shaped like a cup) in small trees or shrubs or on the ground. They prefer partially open shrubby areas or forests, mostly at the edges of clearings. Females lay 3 to 6 eggs, usually 4. Only the female sits on the eggs to keep them warm (called incubating the eggs). It takes approximately 3-4 weeks for the chicks to hatch. About 9 days after hatching the young birds can begin leaving the nest, which is called fledging.
Newborn sparrows are helpless when they hatch. They do not have feathers, so they do not have one of the most important forms of insulation to keep warm and need to rely on their parents. They stay in the nest, waiting for both parents to feed them.
A white-throated sparrow banded in the United States lived at least 9 years and 8 months.
The voice or call of white-throated sparrows sounds like they are saying "Poor Sam Peabody." They use an array of other vocalizations as well.
White-throated sparrows have keen vision and hearing.
White-throated sparrows are omnivores. Their diet consists of seeds, fruits, and insects. Seeds come from the floor of forests, in bushy clearings and hidden in grasses and weeds. These sparrows also feed on wild fruits from blackberry tangles and shrubs. Insects are eaten when they are available; parents also feed insects to their chicks.
Sparrow eggs, chicks, and even adults are vulnerable to many mammal and bird predators. A few are listed below. To avoid predators, they rely on cryptic coloration (camouflage) and the ability to fly. White-throated sparrow nests are always near trees, stumps, or logs. Sparrows use these places as perches to look out for predators.
White-throated sparrows are important members of their ecosystems, being important both as seed dispersers and predators and as prey to larger mammals and birds.
White-throated sparrows do not adversely affect humans, except perhaps by eating seeds and grain.
White-throated sparrows are beneficial to humans because they consume numerous insects that they find in trees, bushes, or shrubs. Eating certain insects that might cause harm to such trees, bushes or shrubs, protects the plants that people cultivate.
White-throated Sparrows are protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act.
Andrea Galanti (author), University of California, Irvine, Rudi Berkelhamer (editor), University of California, Irvine.
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