Monday, April 4, 2011

White-throated Sparrows

I know a grand total of three species of sparrow. (I have mentioned this fact before.) Basically, these are the sparrows that hang around our yard a lot, so I feel like I've gotten to know these birds pretty well by now. You've got your regular old House Sparrows (invaders from Europe), operatic Song Sparrows, and these guys: White-throated Sparrows.

(OK, bird, can you lift your head a little so we can see your face?)

(Never mind, that picture came out kinda blurry. As you were.)

These are definitely not the drab/boring birds I used to think of when I heard the word "sparrow". Just look at those crazy black and white stripes on the top of this bird's head, and the bright yellow spots above its eyes (in bird-anatomy-speak, these are called "lores"). Not to mention the big white patch on its throat, bordered with a thin line of black so the color stands out even more. I honestly had no idea these birds even existed before last summer, but now I see them all the time.

Incidentally, there are two color forms of this species: a white-striped and a tan-striped variety (referring to the colors on their heads -- the bird in the picture is a white-striped form, although we have tan-striped birds in our yard as well). I can't resist quoting this awesome information about the White-throated Sparrows' color forms, copied from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's online bird guide (

"The two forms are genetically determined, and they persist because individuals almost always mate with a bird of the opposite morph. Males of both color types prefer females with white stripes, but both kinds of females prefer tan-striped males. White-striped birds are more aggressive than tan-striped ones, and white-striped females may be able to outcompete their tan-striped sisters for tan-striped males."

Yeah, so cool.

As a side note, kudos to my landlord for refilling the bird feeder in the front yard that's been standing empty for months. Now I can be the creepy person who hangs out at the front window with binoculars, even more so than I already am. :P

1 comment:

  1. I'll have to pay more attention to those that feed outside my window. I was never sure what they were but now I think they were sparrows. They are curious creatures - always peering in the windows. Cool photos. Chris Horvath