Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis


The White-throated Sparrow is found breeding across Canada, including eastern British Columbia and southern portions of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Migration is typically limited to central US. White-throated Sparrows over-winter in southern and eastern US and into Central America. Occasional migrants will winter as far west as the coast of California.


General: White-throated Sparrows are a large sparrow species (6-7 inches length), are full bodied, have a prominent pointed bill and a long, narrow, slightly forked tail. In general, this sparrow has a brown upper body, grey chest and belly, and an obvious stripe pattern on the head.

Adult Male: Adult males have bold head patterns. The cap is striped black and white, a black eye line, and a white throat. Distinct yellow patches are located on the lores. The bill on the White-throated Sparrow is grey. The upper body of this sparrow is brown with streaking and two white bars are located on the wings. The chest is usually grey with darker mottling. The White-throated Sparrow has a second “tan” colour morph. The tan morph has similar body colouration; however the striping pattern on the head is a brown and tan combination with a yellow lores. The white morph can be difficult to distinguish from the tan morph in their basic plumage.

Adult Female: Adult females have similar colour patterns to those of the male, but are generally duller. Female White-throated Sparrows also occur as a white or tan morph, with the same colourations as described for males.

Juvenile: Juveniles typically exhibit the tan and brown colouration of the tan morph. This can make juveniles particularly difficult to identify from adults in their basic plumage.

Similar Species: Juvenile Golden-crowned Sparrows have similar head stripe patterns to the tan morph. As well, Song Sparrows have similar body colouration but with heaver chest mottling. White-crowned Sparrows have a similar bold head pattern but with an orange bill and lack yellow lores.

Behaviour: This sparrow typically travels in flocks of 30 to 50 individuals and is frequently spotted on the ground, scratching through the leaf litter for food. White-throated Sparrows eat the fruit of dogwoods, elder, cedar, apple, maple, and oak trees. Their diet also includes a mix of insects and seeds.

White-throated Sparrows are common in wooded areas, along forest edges, in logged or burned regenerating areas, and along pond, swamp, or creek edges. In winter, these sparrows are observed in overgrown fields, parks, and suburban areas.


This sparrow species builds a cup nest in concealed wet thickets. Nests are composed of grass and twigs and are lined with deer hair, feathers, and grasses. Four to six eggs are laid between May and August. Eggs are creamy to light green in colour with rust markings. Chicks fledge seven to 12 days after hatching.

Conservation Status:

This species supports global, national, and provincially secure populations.
Capture Rates

White-throated Sparrow breeding range includes the more northern and interior areas of British Columbia. At Colony Farm, hosting ideal habitat for stop-over of these medium distant migrants, we captured a few individuals on their southward migration. Capture rates are standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours from 2010 - 2012.

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