Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

White-throated Sparrows in our Toronto backyard

White-throated Sparrows in our Toronto backyard

white-throated sparrow, ontario, pic 3

Our backyard was a beehive of activity all spring long with many migrating birds choosing to stop by for refreshment and food.  Several pairs of White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) seemed to find our property quite attractive for they stayed around for almost three weeks.

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We had previously observed White-throated Sparrows at my parents’ place near Algonquin Provincial Park in the community of Oxtongue Lake, so we were thrilled to have some to “call our own”.

white-throated sparrow in bush_toronto_ontario

They are such cheerful little sparrows that string together a wonderful series of notes to create their song.  The delightful wavering whistle is synonymous with the solitude of the expansive and remote boreal forests of Canada.  Some have put words to the melody suggesting Oh sweet Canada Canada appropriate and representative of the country’s unspoiled wildness in the northern regions.

white-throated sparrow, ontario, pic 1

The attractive White-throated Sparrows in our backyard were white-striped morphs meaning that their crowns are black with a white stripe down the centre.

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It is common to see White-throated Sparrows in dense cover where nearby open areas provide suitable foraging opportunities.  These habitats might include forest edges around beaver ponds, areas of regrowth subsequent to logging activity or forest fires, or thickets next to the tree line.

white-throated sparrow looks down in tree_toronto_ontario

During migration, they are readily tempted to visit urban properties to take advantage of birdseed in backyard feeders.

white-throated sparrow on ground_toronto_ontario

The sparrows concentrated their foraging efforts beneath our bird feeders where nyjer and mixed birdseed spilled onto the ground.  Nearby shrubs offered them some cover, although they did venture further afield as the food was cleaned up.  Their backward hopping motion was comical to observe as they demonstrated their skill at moving leaves and debris with their feet to access food hidden below.

white-throated sparrow in tree_toronto_ontario

During the spring, White-throated Sparrows routinely eat fresh and tender buds and flowers so they keep to the low branches of trees and shrubs.  The emerging growth on trees such as oak, apple, maple and beech will tempt these sparrows whereas, for the remainder of the year, they will consume small fruits and seeds from ragweed, sumac, grape, highbush cranberry, mountain ash and smartweed.

white-throated sparrow, ontario, pic 5

White-throated Sparrows are 80% vegetarian but do also feast on terrestrial arthropods such as spiders, millipedes, centipedes and other insects during the summer months.  They are, indeed, welcome visitors to our neck of the woods, especially when they burst into song.

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Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

2 comments

  • we had 3 white crested sparrows visit our yard this spring, but they only stayed 3 days. They too, hopped on the ground and never sat on a feeder, just ate the spilled seeds. I love the little yellow stripes.

    • How exciting. I’m wondering if perhaps you mean White-crowned Sparrows?? They are very similar to White-throated Sparrows as far as behaviour goes.