The White-throated sparrow is a very common bird in the winter in East Brunswick. They will visit feeders for seeds or glean ones from the ground that have spilled. But don't try to find them in your yard or around town in the summer. They nest primarily in forests in the far northern United States and Canada and only visit our more southerly areas in the winter when food resources up north are diminished. Unlike many of our other sparrows that can be difficult to identify and as a result are often lumped under the birders acronym "LBB" for "Little Brown Bird," the White-throated sparrow is relatively easy to identify. The common name gives away one of the fieldmarks to look for, a "white throat." The White-throated sparrow is actually a pretty sharp looking bird, with a rich brown back, gray belly, white throat, black and white striped head and a bright yellow spot between the bill and eyes (this area is known as the lores on birds, so the White-throated sparrow would be described as having yellow lores).  

White-throated sparrows typically occur in small to large flocks and often respond quickly to spishing. Spishing will often get them to move from the ground up into shrubs for a better view. Look for them in just about any weedy area around town especially along field edges that merge into woodlands. If you aren't having any luck getting them to your feeder, try broadcasting some seeds on the ground and that might do the trick.

White-throated sparrows can also be easily recognized by their song. Most birds tend to sing primarily during the spring and summer breeding seasons, but the White throated sparrow often sings in winter too. While anthropomorphizing nature is always a bad idea, maybe its just happier than other birds in the winter and that's why it sings. The White-throated Sparrow song is a pretty, thin whistle that sounds an awful lot like "Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody".   

Use the Friends Online Guide to East Brunswick Parks to find some places to look for them. The Guide is available at: (Look for a brand new park to be added to the Guide shortly). A good place to look is probably along the field edges at Heavenly Farms and behind the Community Arts Center where the fields merge into shrubby thickets of wild rose. Give spishing a shot, the White-throated sparrow is a perfect bird to try it out on. If you aren't familiar with spishing, I described the easy technique in a previous post about Black-capped chickadees.

For more information about White-throated sparrows visit the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology website.

Published on the East Brusnwick Patch

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