|Conservation status||Widespread and common.|
|Family||New World Sparrows|
|Habitat||Boreal scrub, forest edges, thickets, chaparral, gardens, parks; in winter, also farms and desert washes. Breeding habitat varies, but always in brushy places, such as dwarf willow thickets at edge of tundra, bushy clearings in northern forest, scrub just below timberline in mountains, chaparral and well-wooded suburbs along Pacific Coast. In winter, also found in hedgerows, overgrown fields, desert washes.|
Forages mainly while hopping and running on ground. Sometimes feeds up in low shrubs, and occasionally will make short flights to catch insects in mid-air. Except during nesting season, usually forages in flocks.
4-5, sometimes 3, rarely 2-6. Creamy white to pale greenish, heavily spotted with reddish brown. Incubation is by female only, 11-14 days, usually 12. Young: Both parents feed nestlings, although female may do more at first. Young leave the nest about 7-12 days after hatching, with those in far north tending to leave earlier than those farther south. Male may care for fledglings while female begins 2nd nesting attempt. 1 brood per year in far North, 2-3 (or even 4) farther south.
Both parents feed nestlings, although female may do more at first. Young leave the nest about 7-12 days after hatching, with those in far north tending to leave earlier than those farther south. Male may care for fledglings while female begins 2nd nesting attempt. 1 brood per year in far North, 2-3 (or even 4) farther south.
Mostly seeds, other vegetable matter, and insects. Apparently feeds mostly on seeds in winter, mainly those of weeds and grasses. Feeds on other vegetable matter at various seasons, including buds, flowers, moss capsules, willow catkins, berries, and small fruits. Also eats many insects and spiders, especially in summer. Young are fed mostly insects.
In southernmost coastal populations, pairs may remain together all year on permanent territories. Elsewhere, males arrive on nesting grounds before females, defend territories by singing. Nest: In North, site is usually on ground at base of shrub or grass clump, often placed in shallow depression in ground; along West Coast, nest often placed a few feet up in shrubs. Nest (built by female) is open cup made of grass, twigs, weeds, rootlets, strips of bark, lined with fine grass, feathers, animal hair.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Some populations on Pacific Coast are permanent residents; those from northern and mountain regions are strongly migratory. Mostly migrates at night. On average, females winter farther south than males.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsShort series of clear whistles followed by buzzy notes.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the White-crowned Sparrow
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the White-crowned Sparrow
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.