Guest blog post by Steven Price, President of Bird Studies Canada.
Sparrows can be challenging to identify – all brown-flecked with only subtle differences between the many species. But that dapper-looking one, with bold, black-and-white head stripes and a clear, grey breast, is the White-crowned Sparrow.
In April and May, this sparrow moves northward in huge numbers across Canada, through gardens and thickets, heading to breeding grounds in the tundra and western mountains. Look for them on the ground, under your feeder and especially near shrubs, where their bright head markings reveal them against the brown leaf litter.
During breeding season, like most birds, they prefer insects for food. But when migrating through your backyard, they will eat many kinds of seeds, including smaller millet and milo, which you can scatter under your bushes. Best of all, the less manicured your garden, the more habitat you have for ground-feeding birds, like White-crowneds, who prefer the cover for protection from hawks and cats.
That brush pile in the corner of the yard you haven’t cleaned up yet? Don’t! Your legitimate reason is that it’s great sparrow cover!