Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: Golden Crowned Sparrow Zonotrichla atriciapilla


One of our largest sparrows closely resembles White-crowned Sparrow but in place of head stripes has a black bordered dull golden-yellow median crown stripe. They range from alpine meadows of the far northwestern coast of Alaska and British Columbia extending across the northern most Rockies. Migratory along the Pacific Coast from southern B.C. to California.


General: The Golden-crowned Sparrow is a medium-sized sparrow measuring 6” – 7’ and slightly larger than the closely related White-crowned Sparrow. Habitat preferences are different with Golden-crowned preferring alpine meadows and coniferous trees whereas the White-crowned sparrow prefers more shrubby thickets and forest edges.

Brown above with gray unstreaked breast, cheek and collar, two white wing bars Bill dark above, pale below. Distinctive black bordered dull golden-yellow median crown stripe.

Length: 6 – 7 “ (15 – 18 cm)
Wingspan: 9.5”
Weight: 1 oz (29g)

Adult Male: Adult distinctive with extensive black on head. Male’s golden crown is bordered by a wide black cap.

Adult female: Similar to male.

Juvenile: Immature similar to White-crowned but grayer overall with a pale throat. Fall immature have two dark-brown stripes with dusky yellowish central area and a trace of mustache stripe.

Similar Species: Immature White-crowned has buffy median crown stripe not yellow, eyebrow line buffy, bill pink or yellowish.

Behavior: Similar to White-crowned sparrow as it forages on ground. Can puff up crown.

Habitat: Spruce forest, boreal scrubs, dwarf willows in breeding season and in winter or migration they spend their time in dense shrubbery, edges and thickets like the White crowned Sparrow.


Crown pattern takes several years to develop.

Conservation Status:

Numbers are increasing.
Capture Rates

The Golden-crowned Sparrow is a winter resident of Colony Farm. Subsequently, capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) begin in fall and peak in winter. Smaller capture rates occur in spring as birds migrate to higher and/or more northerly habitats.


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