The handsome White-throated Sparrow which spends the winter in much of the Eastern United States, is a study of field marks: a black and white striped crown, a gray face with a black line through the eye, yellow tufts of feathers in front of the eye, and a well-defined white bib on a gray breast. They can be found on the ground or in brushy edges of the woods, whistling their song, “Ole’ Sam Peabody, Peabody!” White-throated Sparrows are gregarious, whistling a high “seep” in order to maintain contact within the foraging flock.
A Cool Fact mentioned by Cornell’s bird guide states:
- The White-throated Sparrow comes in two color forms: white-crowned and tan-crowned. The two forms are genetically determined, and they persist because individuals almost always mate with a bird of the opposite morph. Males of both color types prefer females with white stripes, but both kinds of females prefer tan-striped males. White-striped birds are more aggressive than tan-striped ones, and white-striped females may be able to out compete their tan-striped sisters for tan-striped males.
It may be easily assumed that these two forms are adult and first-winter birds, or male and female, but instead they are genetically determined to be either white or tan-crowned throughout their lives regardless of their age or sex. Young birds like this tan form bird pictured above and below show some streaking on the breast.
These pretty sparrows tend to hop around in my garden, looking for scattered millet or sunflower rather than coming to the bird feeder. They are easily identified by their well-defined white throat, regardless of the color of their crown!