White-throated Sparrow

Hey guys, welcome back! Today, the first sparrow I was introduced to, aside from the House Sparrow. When I was younger, I thought I knew my birds. I knew the little brown birds I saw weren’t simply sparrows, but House Sparrows. I figured surely there must be other kinds of sparrows, but I never saw any, at least not that I remember noticing. Little brown birds were simply House Sparrows. Simple. Truth is, there’s quite a few species of sparrows.

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White-throated Sparrow, St. Louis Zoo

The White-throated Sparrow is one of the most widespread New World sparrows in North America, most common the U.S. in winter, spending its summers in Canada. Wait? What’s a “New World Sparrow?” Again, I’m not going to open the Pandora’s Box known as taxonomy, but sparrows here in the Americas are known as “New World” sparrows, while the sparrows of Eurasia are known as “Old World” sparrows. The House sparrow is actually native to Europe and is not closely related to the White-throated Sparrow, nor any of the other New World Sparrows. We’ll discuss how the House Sparrow got here in a couple weeks.

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White-throated Sparrow, Forest Park, St. Louis, MO

Back to the White-throated Sparrow. White-throated Sparrows are typically found in more wooded areas than most other sparrows who prefer open fields. They are known for their, you guessed it, white throat patch. This is the first species we’ve gotten to in this blog that has two different color morphs. White and tan. Some birds, like the one pictured at the top of the post, feature three white stripes on their head, with spots of yellow above their eyes. Tan morphed White-throated Sparrows (seen below) have tan stripes instead of white. Now there are differences in personality between two, with white morphs tending to be more aggressive, and tan morphs more nurturing. Audubon has a great article about it here if you’re interested in learning more.

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Tan morph White-throated Sparrow, Central Park, NY

The White-throated Sparrow was a nemesis of mine for a while. About 2 years to be exact. Why? How could a little unassuming brown bird become my nemesis? Their song. You’ll see guide books sometime use the mnemonic “Oh sweet Canada!” to describe it. I think it’s best to just listen to it yourself as I typically don’t subscribe to those mnemonics. (I just usually don’t hear words in bird songs, but hey whatever works for you!) Anyway, I would hear that song ALL. THE. TIME. It’s a nice little ditty, but it drove me nuts because I wanted to know what was making it. Every time I would hear it, I’d try to find the source. And I’m talking about before I really started birding in ernest. For like two years, every spring I’d hear that sound all over the place. In the park, on my street, in the backyard; everywhere. It haunted me. Finally one day, I asked Nadir, the guide from NYC Audubon that I did the walks in Central Park with. I whistled it for him, and he told me it was a White-throated Sparrow. I was relieved to finally know, but a part of me had to see it for myself to truly believe it. After all, I had seen a ton of White-throated Sparrows, but I had never seen them make that sound. Finally it happened. I saw one actually making the noise. Years of torment had ended! I could finally enjoy a good night’s sleep lol! Join me next time for more sparrow talk as we discuss another common native sparrow; the Song Sparrow!

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