Maryland Birds

White-throated Sparrow
(Zonotrichia albicollis)

White-throated_Sparrow.jpgDescription & Range:

Besides the distinctive white throat patch and yellow spot between the eye and bill, the bird is one of the larger sparrows - about 7” in length. Its tail is somewhat forked. The bill is blackish in color. Legs are pinkish. Breast feathers are gray. A similar species, the White-crowned Sparrow, has a pink bill, and lacks the white throat and yellow face spot. These birds are polymorphic, meaning adults that have white brown and tan head stripes seem to always mate with those with black and white head stripes.

White-throated Sparrows migrate from the North to Maryland in late October and stay until late April to early May. These sparrows can sometimes be found in Garrett County Maryland other times of the year.


White-throated Sparrows prefer open deciduous or mixed deciduous-evergreen woods, thickets, shrubs and brush piles in residential areas. Leafy ground within or near woods are key habitat requirements in the fall and winter.


These sparrows forage primarily on the ground. They prefer to scratch in leaves for insects and seeds. White-throated Sparrows are noted for their noisy scratching. They will come readily to bird feeders and also ground feed with a seed preference for sunflower and white millet. In the early spring these birds will also consume buds from shrubs and trees.


White-throated Sparrows breed in central Canada and New England. They typically nest on or near the ground. Occasional nests are built up to 15 feet off the ground in conifers. Usually, these nests are second attempts after a pair has had a ground nest robbed by a predator.


It is well known for its song of the late fall and winter which sounds likes “Old Sam Peabody Peabody” or “Oh Sweet Canada, Canada’ which both sexes sing. The distinct call song of “Tseet” which the bird sings when searching for other sparrows is a part of the sounds of autumn. The White-throated Sparrow is one native sparrow that may be found in the suburbs and urban areas in the fall and winter.

Listen to the White-throated Sparrow

Did you Know?

Although still found abundantly in its winter range the White-throated Sparrow is declining in its breeding range in the North. Juncos and White-throated Sparrows although different species occasionally mate! The hybrid bird looks like a grayish White-throated Sparrow with Junco-like tail feathers.