News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters Country birds

The white-crowned sparrow in the accompanying photograph is busy building a nest in the middle of Oregon grape leaves here in my yard in Camp Sherman. The females choose the nest site and handle the nest construction. As spring begins, the bulky five-inch nest is constructed on the ground with grasses, twigs, hairs and feathers. Three to seven pale blue or green-black spotted eggs are laid and hatched in 11 to 15 days. In ten days the nestlings are feeding on their own. Their diet consists of seeds, grass, buds, fruits, and arthropods.

Along the Oregon coast or on the shoulders of Mt. Jefferson the clear-pitched trill of the white-crowned sparrow [Zonotrichia leucophrys] can be heard throughout spring and summer and occasionally in winter. The young sparrows learn their song in the first two or three months of their life. They flock together in colder months, with 10-20 birds back-scratching for seeds and small insects in leaf debris. Wearing a black helmet with white stripes, the head feathers play a prominent part in the status of the white-crowned. Researchers found that the birds with the brightest stripes hold a more dominant role within the flock.

A collection of white-crowned sparrows are referred to as a “flutter,” “meinie,” “crew,” “quarrel,” or a “ubiquity” of sparrows.

For more white-crowned sparrow images visit


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