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Species Guide
A photo of a White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Zonotrichia leucophrys

The White-crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys, is a medium-sized passerine bird native to North America. It is a member of the New World sparrow family and is characterized by its striking head pattern with bold black and white stripes, a grey face, and a long tail. The upper parts are brown with streaks, and the underparts are a soft grey. Its wings are brown with bars, and it has a pink or yellow bill.

Identification Tips

Adult White-crowned Sparrows can be identified by their distinctive head stripes, lacking the white throat markings and yellow lores found in the similar White-throated Sparrow. They measure approximately 5.9-6.3 inches in length, weigh between 0.9-1.0 ounces, and have a wingspan ranging from 8.3-9.4 inches.


These birds prefer brushy areas and are found in the taiga and tundra of northernmost North America, as well as in the Rocky Mountains and along the Pacific coast.


White-crowned Sparrows breed across northern Canada and the western United States. While some populations are residents, particularly in the Rocky Mountains and along the coast, northern populations are migratory. They winter in the southern United States and northern Mexico and are rare vagrants to western Europe.


White-crowned Sparrows forage on the ground or in low vegetation and sometimes catch flying insects in short flights. They often forage in flocks during winter. Their nesting sites are typically low in bushes or on the ground under shrubs, where they lay three to five brown-marked grey or greenish-blue eggs.

Song & Calls

The song of the White-crowned Sparrow is a clear, sweet whistling sequence of notes. It is known to be affected by human activity and noise, with recent studies indicating changes in their songs over time.


Breeding occurs in brushy areas, with nests either low in bushes or on the ground under shrubs. They lay three to five brown-marked grey or greenish-blue eggs.

Similar Species

The White-crowned Sparrow is similar in appearance to the White-throated Sparrow but can be distinguished by the absence of white throat markings and yellow lores.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet consists mainly of seeds, other plant parts, and insects. In winter, they often forage in flocks.

Conservation status

The White-crowned Sparrow is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

White-crowned Sparrow Sounds

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