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White-Crowned Sparrow: Field Guide, Pictures, Habitat & Info

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white crowned sparrow

The white-crowned sparrow is popular among birdwatchers because it appears each winter across the United States, has a distinctive appearance, and is relatively easy to find. If you haven’t seen one of these birds yet and are looking for tips and tricks for locating them, keep reading, as we describe their appearance and discuss their range, habitat, diet, and more to help you be better informed.

hummingbird divider Quick Facts About the White-Crowned Sparrow

White Crowned Sparrow
Image Credit: Pixabay
Habitat Scrub, forest edges, thickets, parks
Diet Seeds, insects
Behavior Foraging on the ground
Nesting Female builds a nest in a shallow depression
Conservation Common
Scientific name Zonotrichia leucophrys
Lifespan: 16 months

White-Crowned Sparrow General Description

The white-crowned sparrow is an easy-to-identify bird due to its white-and-black striped head. It has a grey breast and belly with a pale brown or yellow beak. Its wings are brown with white highlights, and it has a long tail. It usually grows to 5.9–6.3 inches long, with a wingspan of 8–9.5 inches.

White-Crowned Sparrow: Range, Habitat, Behavior, Diet & Nesting


The white-crowned sparrow has quite a large range that extends from upper Canada and Alaska down to Mexico, and you can also find it from the east to the west coasts of the United States at different times of the year. You can find them all year in many areas of the northwestern United States, but as you move east, you will only be able to see them during the winter months. In the summer, they migrate north to breed, where you will find them in Alaska and most of northern Canada. People have also seen this bird in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Norway, but it is rare.


The white-crowned sparrow enjoys living in open spaces surrounded by plenty of brush. They like to hop around on the ground looking for food but need to get into cover quickly if there is danger. Forest edges and thickets are good examples of where you can find a white-crowned sparrow, and you will also see them frequently in parks.

White Crowned Sparrow
Image Credit: Pixabay


The white-crowned sparrow enjoys spending its time hopping around on the ground or perching on the branches of small shrubs, searching for food. In the spring and fall, most birds, especially in the eastern United States, will migrate from northern Canada to as far south as Mexico.


The white-crowned sparrow is a cold-weather bird that relies on seeds and vegetation from plants, including flowers, buds, berries, and fruit. You will also frequently see it at backyard feeders once it finds them. When the weather warms up enough, it’s happy to eat insects, including beetles, caterpillars, and wasps.


The female white-crowned sparrow builds an open cup-shaped nest in dense bushes or under shrubs. She will construct the nest from grasses, pine needles, sticks, and bark. Once it’s made, she will lay three to five eggs that will hatch in 11–14 days, and the chicks will become self-sufficient 8–10 days later.

eagle divider How to Find the White-Crowned Sparrow: Birdwatching Tips

What to Listen For

The white-crowned sparrow sings a song that has several short bursts followed by a few longer ones. It’s pleasant and not too loud.

What to Look For

Look for clumps of bushes no higher than your waist with open areas around them. Searching such areas early in the morning might reveal these birds nearby, hopping along the ground and looking for food. They often like to form small groups, so you can find several at the same location.

When to Look

If you live in the eastern United States, the best time to look for the white-crowned sparrow is during winter. If you are in the Great Lakes region, you’ll have a great opportunity to see them as they migrate in the spring and fall. People who live in the western United States, especially Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, are the most fortunate because they can see this sparrow all year round.

White Crowned Sparrow
Image By: Pixabay

Attracting the White-Crowned Sparrow to Your Backyard: Tips & Tricks

  • Add bird feeders to your yard that are low to the ground.
  • Placing seeds on the ground or a low platform can work better than a feeder.
  • A birdbath can attract the white-crowned sparrow if it’s close to the ground.
  • A heated birdbath can provide liquid water in cold weather, which the sparrow might need.
  • Planting thick evergreen foliage and shrubbery around your property can encourage the white-crowned sparrow to visit.
  • Placing a basic birdhouse with a large entrance hole in shrubbery can encourage these birds to build a nest.
  • Discourage cats from being in your yard
  • Provide areas in the yard the birds can take cover—bushes, shrubs, and trees are all excellent options

White-Crowned Sparrow Conservation: Is This Bird Threatened?

Fortunately, the white-crowned sparrow is a common bird that is not in danger.

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Final Thoughts

The white-crowned sparrow is a small cold-weather bird that breeds in Alaska and northern Canada and spends the winter months in the United States. You can find it in small bushes that have open areas around them and are near the edge of forests. It will spend much time hopping around the ground, searching for food, and you can invite it to your yard with a well-positioned feeder and a birdbath.

Featured Image Credit: Kara Skye, Pixabay

About the Author Ed Malaker

Ed Malaker is a veteran writer who contributes to a wide range of blogs covering information on computer programming, pets, birding, tools, fitness, guitars, and optics. Outside of writing, Ed is often found working in the garden or performing DIY projects in the house. Ed is also a musician, spending his time composing music for independent films or helping people repair their guitars.