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Bryan Brillhart Photography Presents Dig Imperial Beach "Bird of the Week", the "White-Crowned Sparrow"

Jun 23, 2016 01:42AM ● Published by Paul Spear

Gallery: Bryan Brillhart Photography Presents Dig Imperial Beach "Bird of the Week", the "White-Crowned Sparrow" [7 Images] Click any image to expand.

Bryan Brillhart of Bryan Brillhart Photography presents us with the Dig Imperial Beach “Bird of the Week”. This week’s bird is the "White-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)"

The column will provide a picture of a bird(s) locally photographed and we will have background on the bird.

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Bryan Brillhart Photography

White-Crowned Sparrow

This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the White-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), a medium sized, wide spread, and common sparrow native to North America. They are members of the family, New World Sparrows. Adults are 18 cm (7 in) long and have black and white stripes on their head, a gray face, brown streaked upper parts and a long tail. The wings are 

brown with bars and the underparts are gray. Their bill is pink or yellow. They are similar in appearance to the white-throated sparrow, but do not have the white throat markings or yellow lores.

In most parts of the West, the smartly patterned white-crown is very common at one season or another: summering in the mountains and the north, wintering in the southwestern lowlands, and present all year along the coast. Winter birds usually live in flocks, rummaging on the ground near brushy thickets, perching in the tops of bushes when a birder approaches too closely. In the East, the white-crowned sparrow is generally an uncommon migrant or wintering bird. Different populations of white-crowns often have local "dialects" in their songs, and these have been intensively studied by scientists in some regions.

 Habitat is in boreal scrub, forest edges, thickets, chaparral, gardens, parks, and in winter, also farms and desert washes. Breeding habitat varies, but is always in brushy places, such as dwarf willow thickets at the edge of tundra, bushy clearings in the northern forests, scrub just below timberline in the mountains, chaparral, and well-wooded suburbs along the Pacific Coast. In winter, they are also found in hedgerows, overgrown fields, and desert washes.

White-crowned sparrows forage mainly while hopping and running on ground, sometimes feeding up in low shrubs, and occasionally they will make short flights to catch insects in mid-air. Except during nesting season, they usually forage in flocks.

Diet is mostly seeds, other vegetable matter, and insects. They apparently feed mostly on seeds in winter, mainly those of weeds and grasses. They feed on other vegetable matter at various seasons, including buds, flowers, moss capsules, willow catkins, berries, and small fruits. Diet may also include many insects and spiders, especially in summer. Young are fed mostly insects.

Nesting in southernmost coastal populations, pairs may remain together all year on permanent

territories. Elsewhere, males arrive on nesting grounds before females, and defend territories by singing. Nests in the North are usually on ground at the base of a shrub or grass clump, often placed in a shallow depression in the ground. Along the West Coast, nests are often placed a few feet up in shrubs. Nests, built by females, are an open cup made of grass, twigs, weeds, rootlets, strips of bark, lined with fine grass, feathers, and animal hair.

After mating, females lay 4-5, sometimes 3, rarely 2-6, creamy white to pale greenish, heavily spotted with reddish brown eggs. Incubation is by females only for 11-14 days. Both parents feed nestlings, although females may do more at first. Young leave the nest in about 7-12 days after hatching, with those in far north tending to leave earlier than those farther south. Males may care for fledglings while females begin a 2nd nesting attempt. They yield 1 brood per year in the far North, and 2-3 (or even 4) farther south.

This bird can be easily observed in our great Tijuana Estuary. Just look for their white crown. Until next week, happy birding!

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