Thursday, October 20, 2016

Crops & Clips: White-crowned Sparrows

We enjoyed rather temperate but stormy weather for a couple of weeks after we arrived in Illinois in late September. Clouds hung low one morning over the silo at Nelson Lake preserve:

Nelson Lake east entry HDR 20160929

Then, in mid-October, the weather turned cold. Temperatures dropped to near freezing and we had a hard frost overnight. The air was still and we could see our breath when we visited nearby Les Arends Forest Preserve on the Fox River in Batavia. A slight breeze distorted the reflections in this slough along the west side of the river:

Fox River at Les Arends HDR 20161014

A cluster of Sky Blue Asters (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense), sheltered in the undergrowth, had survived the cold, but their days were numbered:

Sky Blue Aster - Symphyotrichum oolentangiense 20161011

A few White-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) were singing their distinctive lisping songs. They reminded me of the nights we spent in a little cabin deep in Denali National Park, Alaska. It was early June and the night sky remained deep blue all night. Around us, White-crowned Sparrows sang incessantly all night. As the light improved we watched them forage only inches away from our window screens.   

There are several subspecies of White-crowned Sparrows. Those we saw in Alaska, such as this one, has white lores (the area in front of eye):

White-crowned Sparrow 3-20110617

This is one of my favorite photos of this species, taken in Talkeetna, Alaska back in 2011:

White-crowned Sparrow 20110617

This bird, photographed at Rio Grande Nature Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, also exhibits white lores:

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

Four subspecies of this rather large sparrow are recognized, and intermediate forms are found where their ranges overlap. They are distinguished by presence or absence of black in their lores, bill color and other subtle plumage variations. 

Two of the most widespread subspecies are depicted above. Zonotrichia l. leucophrys breeds in the central and eastern portion of far northern Canada and along the Rocky Mountain chain into Northern New Mexico. It has a pink bill and black lores and spends the winter all across the southern US, more commonly to the east. 

Zonotrichia l. gambelli breeds in the western part of far northern Canada and Alaska and has white lores and an orange or pinkish orange bill. In winter it usually migrates into the western US and central Mexico.

While most of the White-crowned Sparrows around our second home in northeastern Illinois have dark lores, this one, seen at Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva, Illinois exhibited white lores:

White-crowned Sparrow with white lores 20100510

My best photos of this species have been taken from the comfort of the back yard deck at our daughter's home in Batava, Illinois. They maintain several feeders and the birds are quite tame, often perching on the railing or furniture. Note that this bird has dark lores:

White-crowned Sparrow 20141010

This one peers through their back yard fence:

White-crowned Sparrow 5-20130505

So far I have shown only adult birds. For the first year of its life the streaks on its head and behind the eye are reddish brown rather than black, and the central crown stripe and those over its eyes are light tan rather than white:

White-crowned Sparrows are quite rarely seen in the southern tip of Florida. I was lucky to find and photograph them there on two occasions, in mid and late October two years in a row. All were immature birds. This one appeared on October 23, 2013, a year after my first sighting on October 18, 2012:

White-crowned Sparrow 2-20131023

This immature visited our daughter's back yard in October, 2014:

White-crowned Sparrow 07-20141010 

This past week the feeders in our daughter's back yard had run out but there was some seed scattered on the deck. Two immature White-crowned Sparrows flew in and perched on the deck railing at eye level only about 4 feet from where I was sitting (photographing a junco in nearby tree). 

They were too close to focus and also more than filled the viewfinder of my telescopic lens system, so I cautiously switched on the macro setting. One bird flew but the other remained for a few seconds, enough for a burst of close-ups:

White-crowned Sparrow portrait 07-20161014

White-crowned Sparrow portrait 04-20161014

White-crowned Sparrow portrait 03-20161014

White-crowned Sparrow portrait 01-20161014

Here is the Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco which was the initial object of my attention:

Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco 20161014

I have had difficulties with Blogger fonts and formatting and finally needed to re-write this blog using a default template, hence the difference in appearance. 

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Today's Flowers Friday by Denise

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display


  1. Hello Ken!:) My goodness this is a beautiful Sparrow! I had never heard of the White-crowned Sparrow before seeing it here. Your captures of the mature sparrow are lovely, and the close ups of the juvenile are outstanding. Best Regards.

  2. The closeup pictures of the sparrows are amazing. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photography.

  3. Oh I love the little bird on that neat fence ~ great shot! Also all your photography is wonderful!

    Wishing you a Happy Thursday ~ ^_^

  4. Hi Kenneth, your photography is absolutely amazing! Your photos are gorgeous, and your posts bring me much joy. I also love your header and background. You have an amazing talent, and thank you so much for sharing.

  5. The birds are so sweet. I love that second landscape. Beautiful.

  6. I search for the fence but o the birds are sooo nice.

    1. Ralph, you had me worried as I had to reconstruct the page after it lost all formatting. I checked again, and sure enough I did include the wrought iron fence in our daughter's back yard, with the sparrow perched on the bottom rail-- the 9th photo down from the header. Thanks!

  7. gorgeous sparrow shots! so beautiful! and a fence, too. :)

  8. the sparrow is so pretty. I like the reflection image too.

  9. Wow, those are some amazing close-ups!

  10. Love those macro shots of the sparrow. Excellent captures!

  11. Magnificent photos! Congratulations.
    Um abra├žo.

  12. what a lovely captures! Love your shots.

    Do check what I have posted for skywatch this week.

  13. Great collection of images. I love the water with the rippled surface.

  14. The reflection is great and I love the bird pics!

  15. Hello, pretty collection of photos. Love the variety of Sparrows. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, have a happy weekend!

  16. Your bird photos are spectacular. We live in Breckenridge, CO, and had a Junco nest twice this summer in a wreath by our back door. I only got a few decent shots of it because I didn't want to disturb the nest. We've seen many Juncos this summer in the forest behind our house and believe they have ground nests. Love that tranquil second photo.

  17. Nice shot of the sparrow in the fence. Lovely scenes & birds. I liked the shot of the river a lot.

  18. Stunning photos and I enjoy how you share your knowledge with us. I had a couple of Juncos on my deck in the spring so hope to see them again. Thanks for sharing.

  19. They're adorable!~
    Thanks for sharing at

  20. Outstanding photos of the birds, so close-up and sharp. Also loved he Asters and thank you for sharing them with Today's Flowers. Very much appreciated that :)

  21. A White Crowned Sparrow turned up in the UK in the Summer (a rarity that had birders really excited) but I didn't get to see it, so I have really enjoyed your pictures.

  22. Your sparrow images are stunning. So many different subspecies of sparrows!! Your daughter had a very beautiful visitor, so cute!
    Have a wonderful week :)

  23. Such lovely scenes you have shared, especially of the Fox River! I love the light shining through the trees. Such interesting information about the sparrows. I think we have these in the winter months here in WA state, but I am not sure. I will have to pay attention and compare to your excellent photos!

  24. Beautiful white crowned sparrows. Seeing them for the first time.

  25. What lovely shots of the sparrows! They are delightful birds.

  26. Your photos of these lovely birds species are really amazing. loved seeing them and also great information. interesting that some of these are near Batavia, as I grew up in Aurora. I have just set up an extensive bird feeding station in my own back yard and will be so interested to see what I have here in my own yard. Also have a cabin in oklahoma and have seen many birds there. Great blog and will be following you! Thank you for visiting my blog also

  27. Fabulous portraits of the sparrows!


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