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Ohio Cold-Weather Residents: Two Distinctive Sparrows.

November 26, 2011

White-Crowned Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow

What Are Cold-Weather Residents?

Autumn migration in North America consists of 2 types of birds heading south.  The first type is made up of of birds passing through on their way to warmer places in the southern United States or Central or South America.  These birds are often insect eaters, and their food cannot be found this far north in the coming frigid months.  For example, most warblers fit into this category.  The second type of bird summered further north in Canada, and compared to our colder northern neighbor, a state such as Ohio seems like a decent place to spend the winter- I know that may be hard to believe!  These birds tend to be seed-eaters.  There are several species that can be observed making Ohio their home in the cold season, and I thought I’d discuss some of these birds in a series of posts.

There are two handsome sparrows that winter in Ohio that are quite photogenic, both having black and white striped heads.  I’ve spotted them both since October, and they stand out quite easily in their distinctive plumage- when they’re not hiding.

Both of these sparrows frequent thickets, brushpiles or overgrown meadows, foraging close to or on the ground.  You can hear a group of them scrabbling through the leaf litter close by, even if you cannot see them.  They hop on the ground, making scratching motions to uncover food.  They often make small sounds to stay in touch with each other while moving through thickets.  Typically seen in groups, they can sometimes be found at feeders, but they are often out in the country along wood edges or in fencelines.  Once many years ago I sat in a field, a flock of these birds all around me feeding off of the seeds of dead wildflowers that filled the field, nothing breaking the silence but the sound of their bills clicking together as they ate.

These birds will live in the USA until spring migration, when they will move north for the breeding season.

White-Crowned Sparrows have a pink bill and a plain gray throat.

White-Throated Sparrows have a white throat and yellow lores– that’s the area between the eye and the beak.

As a bonus, White-Throated Sparrows have a very distinctive song, a clear high thin whistle that sounds like:

‘pure sweet Canada Canada Canada’


‘poor Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody’

You can hear this song even as they migrate south.  As a matter of fact, it’s easier to hear them than to see them in many cases.  They’re very fond of cover.

A typical area that a White-Throat frequents

This White-Throat is eating honeysuckle berries

These modest sparrows keep us company in the winter, brightening up the landscape that has lost so many species to warmer climates.  Since there are many seeds out there to eat, nature assures that no ecological niche goes unfilled.  Enjoy them when you see them.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. November 26, 2011 10:11 pm

    So you’re the one who steals our cute little sparrows over the winter! Just kidding of course. There are always several pair of each sharing my campsite with me each spring in the Pigeon River Country. They’re fun to watch and listen to while I drink my coffee in the morning. Great photos of them, I know they don’t stay out in the open for long if at all.

  2. November 27, 2011 1:13 am

    Those are very pretty winter visitors! Besides waterfowl, we seem to be down to finches, juncos and chickadees, although there are still a few nuthatches around. Everybody else has already gone south.

  3. Jo Woolf permalink
    November 27, 2011 2:56 am

    Love these images! It’s good to find out about birds I’ve never even heard of. Our sparrows are more boring – mainly brown and grey.

  4. November 27, 2011 6:27 am

    Great pictures of the white crowned sparrow.

  5. November 27, 2011 7:57 am

    Wonderful photos!

  6. November 27, 2011 9:29 am

    Lovely little birds! I love the first shot!

  7. November 27, 2011 10:13 am

    Thanks, I love the sparrows! A little poem came to mind as I read:

    sitting in a field
    with sparrows

    For Watching Seasons

    • November 27, 2011 11:05 pm

      Many thanks, Ellen! That memory is very strong in me, it left such an impression. I felt I truly was a part of nature.

  8. November 27, 2011 11:12 am

    Nice photos. I love the white-crowned sparrow and we’re so lucky to have both sparrows in our yard. Thanks for sharing.

  9. November 27, 2011 2:33 pm

    Ah yes…migration is happening again…we don’t talk much about migration in the fall, as much as in the spring…well, maybe duck hunters do…especially in Arkansas…can’t turn around without bumping into one…

    It hasn’t happened yet…but dark-eyed juncos will be coming south soon…they are mostly in Canada too, for the summer…I remember when we lived in Minnesota…and it would be 20 below, snow blowing and there they were…dark-eyed junco’s all over the yard under out feeders…eating away…they are so small they needed to eat to stay alive…I often wondered how they lived through that…so small, so cold…God must have planned something for those birds…they would come about Thanksgiving and leave about Easter…loved to see them…I would always say, “They’re back.”…and watch them all winter…

    Loved this post as usual…one thing about a good blog…your make us think not only about what you write and show us…and we live there right along with you…but you also make us think about our own experiences…all that is wonderful…thanks W.S….

    • November 27, 2011 11:06 pm

      Thanks Jim! I’m trying to get some decent photos of those very birds- you’ll see an article on them here one day!

  10. November 27, 2011 7:24 pm

    Great pics, especially of the WCSP.

  11. November 28, 2011 12:28 am

    Stunning photos. Migration is always such a bittersweet time. On one hand, I want the lovelies to go where it’s warmer and on the other hand I want them to stay around. 🙂

  12. November 28, 2011 1:17 am

    I always love the way you capture the playfulness and gentle gestures of the birds, in this case the sparrows. Have a wonderful holiday season….best wishes to you and your family.

  13. November 29, 2011 7:03 pm

    Love, love, love these shots! I’ve never seen that crested sparrow here. They are handsome birds! I especially loved the photograph with the spread wings, there’s something visually pleasing about their delicate feathers.

  14. November 29, 2011 10:20 pm

    Great photos! I always enjoy and learn from your posts!

  15. November 30, 2011 12:41 am

    We get the white-throated ones here in Virginia, but I’ve not seen the white-crowned ones. For several years a pair of white-throated sparrows stayed behind considerably longer. It was a warm day with the windows open that I heard that unfamiliar song. It was beautiful.

    • December 2, 2011 8:09 pm

      I love that high thin quavering song- so distinctive!

      Interesting how certain birds do unique things, like that pair. Some personality shines through that way.

  16. December 1, 2011 1:32 am

    these photos are amazing – you have caught them at so many normal yet interesting points

  17. December 2, 2011 8:07 pm

    Thanks for the comments everyone! 🙂

  18. December 3, 2011 9:03 am

    I was about to send out the troops as I hadn’t seen a post from you or a visit to my blog in quite a while. Clearly, I stopped receiving your posts for some reason so I just resubscribed. Hmmm. Well, back to business as usual. Gorgeous photos, great post. Margie

    • December 3, 2011 6:45 pm

      Hello Margie! I think there was some kind of reset on WordPress that changed some things around- hopefully all is well now!

  19. December 4, 2011 5:20 am

    Hi Tracy. The White-Throat is our official New Brunswick bird. I love your photo of the White-Throat in the berries… lots of movement. Jane

  20. December 23, 2011 7:32 pm

    Just a note to say I wish we could identify the birds as well as you. Our feeders are bringing them in and I flip desperately through my bird book… Merry Christmas! Jane

    • December 24, 2011 9:29 am

      Merry Christmas, Jane! I’d be in trouble trying to identify birds if I didn’t take pictures of them- photos really help. They give you plenty of time to identify them after the fact 🙂


  1. Ohio Cold-Weather Residents: A Sparrow That’s Easy to Miss. « Seasons Flow
  2. October is Sparrow Month. | Seasons Flow

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