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White-crowned sparrow

Zonotrichia leucophrys

Common name:
white-crowned sparrow (en); escrevedeira-de-testa-branca (pt); bruant à couronne blache (fr); sabanero de corona blanca (es); dachsammer (de)
Order Passeriformes
Family Emberizidae
This North American species breeds from Alaska eastward across northern Canada and south along the Pacific coast and into the western mountains to northern New Mexico and southern California. It winters from southern British Columbia, Canada east to Michigan and New York and southward to the Gulf Coast and Mexico.

White-crowned sparrows are 15-16 cm long and have a wingspan of 21-24 cm. They weigh 25-28 g.

This species is very flexible in terms of habitat choise, varying from the edge of parking lots, to the meadows in the Rocky Mountains, or to boreal forests. The only features necessary for them are tall coniferous trees on the edge of a territory, grass, and bare ground for the birds to forage on, and coverage dense enough to hide a nest or roosting area.


White-crowned sparrows eat mainly seeds of weeds and grasses, plus considerable numbers of caterpillars, wasps, beetles, and other insects during the summer. They also eat grains such as oats, wheat, barley, and corn, and fruit including elderberries and blackberries.

These birds breed in April-July. The female builds the nest alone, a cup made of twigs, coarse grasses, pine needles, moss, bark, and dead leaves and lined with fine grasses and hairs. The nest is placed on the ground or in a low scrub, up to 3 m above the ground. There she lays 3-7 eggs which she incubates alone for 11-14 days. The male also helps feeding the chicks, which fledge 10 days after hatching. Each pair only raises 1 brood per season.

IUCN status – LC (Least concern)
With a population os 70 million individuals and a very large breeding range, this species is not threatened at present. Some populations may be declining in parts of Utah, Colorado, and California, but others are increasing in Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, and Newfoundland, for an overall stable population trend.
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