A harbinger of colder seasons, the White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) is a common winter migrant at Prairie Ridge. These medium-sized sparrows breed in the more northern parts of New England and Canada during the late spring and summer months when their favorite food, insects, is plentiful. As winter residents in North Carolina, White-throated Sparrows can be found foraging on the ground for seeds and berries along the edges of woodlots in both suburban and rural areas. They are also readily visible around backyard bird feeders.
The White-throated Sparrow can be identified by the black stripes on its head and white or tan stripes just above each eye. True to its name, a large white patch covers the throat of the bird. The easiest way to identify a White-throated Sparrow is by its song. The familiar sooooo seeeee dididi dididi dididi is commonly heard during the winter months.
There are two different colored varieties of White-throated Sparrows. One has white stripes above the eyes, the other has tan stripes above the eyes. Scientists have observed that the white striped individuals are more aggressive than the tan striped birds. However, the tan striped birds are better caregivers to their nestlings. Birds of both color varieties can be found in North Carolina.
So the next time you're outside be on the lookout for our wintertime visitors.
If you would like to help scientists track these and other winter birds consider participating in Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's Project FeederWatch.
Find out more about the natural happenings at Prairie Ridge at our What Time Is It In Nature Archive.