Early May Sparrows

Posted on May 5th, 2009 by

If you have bird feeders at home, right now you should be looking for three birds on the ground below your feeders: White-throated Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, and Harris’s Sparrows.


White-throated Sparrows began appearing under the Interpretive Center’s feeders during the last week of April. Notice the bird’s bright black-and-white striped crown with a clear yellowish area between the eye and the bill (the lores), as well as its white throat. Often in the morning hours, this bird can be heard singing a sweet, whistled “Old, Sam, Peabody Peabody Peabody,” or “Oh, Sweet, Canada Canada Canada,” depending on which mnemonic you prefer.


White-crowned Sparrows showed up yesterday at the Interpretive Center. They might look similar to the White-throated Sparrows, but there are distinct differences. Notice the White-crowned’s lack of yellow in the lores, and also the pink bill (White-throated has a dark bill) as well as a grayish throat (not white) that blends in with the rest of the bird’s underparts. The song of the White-crowned, heard less frequently than that of the White-throated, begins with a series of slow whistles and ends with a faster, buzzy trill.


Harris’s Sparrows just showed up today at the Interpretive Center. The Harris’s is the largest sparrow in North America, approaching 8 inches in length. While closely related to both White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, the Harris’s Sparrow appears much more distinct in its plumage. Notice the black coloration on its otherwise gray face that runs down to its breast, as well as a black “cheek spot” below and behind each eye. The rest of the bird’s underparts are a clean white (grayish on White-throated and White-crowned). The song of the Harris’s Sparrow consists of two or three slow, high whistles or buzzes all on the same pitch.

These birds will be in southern MN until about the third week in May, when most of them will have migrated further north to their primarily Canadian breeding grounds. The first week in May, however, is generally peak migration for these birds in our part of the state, so keep those feeders filled!


Comments are closed.