U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service



Jerry P. Clark, Primary Staff Biologist, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Sacramento, California 95814
Scott E. Hygnstrom, Extension Wildlife Damage Specialist, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska 68583

Document Type Article


White-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) are distinguished by their pink or yellowish bill, erect posture, gray throat and breast, and prominent crown streaked with black and white. Geographic races, including the mountain (. l. oriantha), Gambel’s (Z. l. gambelii), Nuttall’s (Z. L. nuttalli), and Puget Sound white-crowned sparrow (Z. l. pugetensis) show minor differences in head pattern, bill color, and song. Their songs vary geographically, but consist primarily of clear whistles. White-crowned sparrows are abundant in the western United States. They breed primarily in Alaska and Canada and winter in the western and southern United States and Mexico. White-crowned sparrows are birds of the chaparral, brushy river bottoms, brush piles, rubbish heaps, dense weed fields, and fence rows. Food of white-crowned sparrows averages 75% plant and 25% animal matter. Gambel’s white-crowned sparrows appear in California valleys in September and reach their maximum density during October, becoming injurious to crops in localized areas. The crowned sparrows are involved in crop depredations over a wide area and upon a great variety of crops. Crowned sparrows are classified as migratory nongame birds in the Code of Federal Regulations.