Bird GuideNew World SparrowsWhite-throated Sparrow

At a Glance

A common winter bird of eastern woodlots, shuffling about on the ground in loose flocks, often coming to bird feeders that are placed close enough to the shelter of thickets. It is also widespread in the West in winter, but in much smaller numbers. In summer, White-throated Sparrows sing their clear whistles in northern forests. Adults may have head stripes of either white or tan, and scientists have found some odd differences in behavior between these two color morphs.
New World Sparrows, Perching Birds
Low Concern
Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Forests and Woodlands, Freshwater Wetlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets, Urban and Suburban Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Flitter, Rapid Wingbeats

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Migrates mostly at night. Tends to migrate relatively late in fall, moving south gradually toward wintering areas.


6-7" (15-18 cm). Conspicuous white throat, dark bill, yellow spot before eye. Adults have two color morphs; white-striped birds usually mate with tan-striped ones. Some first-winter birds are duller, with blurry streaks below.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Brown, Gray, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Notched, Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Song a clear, whistled Poor Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody, or Sweet Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada. The latter rendition is perhaps more appropriate, since most of these birds breed in Canada.
Call Pattern
Falling, Rising
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Whistle


Thickets, brush, undergrowth of conifer and mixed woodlands. Breeds in zone of coniferous and mixed forest, mainly in openings having dense thickets of deciduous shrubs, such as around ponds, clearings, edges, roadsides, second growth. Winters in areas with dense low cover, including forest undergrowth and edges, well-vegetated suburbs and parks.



4-5, sometimes 3-6, rarely 2-7. Pale blue or greenish blue, marked with reddish brown and lavender. Incubation is by female only, about 11-14 days.


Both parents feed nestlings. Young usually leave nest 8-9 days after hatching, are tended by parents for at least 2 more weeks. 1-2 broods per year. A few differences between color morphs: White-striped males are usually more aggressive and do more singing than tan-striped males. White-striped females also sing, but tan-striped females usually do not. Pairs involving a tan-striped male and white-striped female usually form more quickly than those of the opposite combination. Tan-striped adults tend to feed their young more often than white-striped adults.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on ground under or close to dense thickets. Often scratches briefly in leaf-litter with both feet. Also forages up in shrubs and low trees, mainly in summer.


Mostly seeds and insects. Feeds heavily on insects during breeding season, including damselflies, ants, wasps, true bugs, beetles, flies, caterpillars, and others, plus spiders, millipedes, and snails. Winter diet is mostly seeds of weeds and grasses. Also eats many berries, especially in fall. Young are fed mostly insects.


The two color morphs (with tan-striped and white-striped heads) may be either male or female; adults almost always mate with the opposite color morph. Male sings to defend nesting territory. Nest site usually on ground, well hidden by low shrubs (such as blueberry), grass, or ferns. Sometimes nests above ground in shrubs, brushpiles, or low trees, rarely up to 10' high. Nest (built by female) is open cup made of grass, twigs, weeds, pine needles, lined with fine grass, rootlets, animal hair.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Widespread and common. Surveys suggest slight declines in total numbers during recent decades.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the White-throated Sparrow. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the White-throated 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.

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