I’m not shy to admit that, as a group, Sparrows can be difficult to identify. Often varying shades of brown, with or without stripes and other distinguishing markings, it can be tough to sort them out. Enter the White-crowned Sparrow who stands out, dressed as he is in his smart black-and-white crown (both sexes have the back-and-white crown). These sparrows are common winter birds from Sept.-April throughout North American yards and parks, and are easily attracted to feeders serving sunflower seeds. They also eat a wide variety of insects, including caterpillars, beetles and wasps as well as some fruits.
Most White-crowned Sparrows breed in open or scrubby habitats, tundra, alpine meadows or forest edges where bare ground and grasses are present in abundance. Nests are placed from 1 to 10 ft. high up in shrubs and in the Arctic they nest right on the ground, the nest hidden among the moss and lichens on the tundra. These long-distance migrants don’t waste time when they arrive on their breeding grounds. They pair up quickly and have 1-3 broods with 3-7 eggs in each brood. After raising their young, the pairs break up and winter separately; however, about 2/3 of the pairs will reunite the following season if both members of the pair return to the same breeding area. Photo of White-crowned Sparrow by Mary Sinker. More info: www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White-crowned_Sparrow/id.