Friday, April 4, 2008


Breakfast nooks are a boon to ornithology. Every day you sit in the same place, at more or less the same time, looking out the window at the same bit of terrain, waiting to see who turns up, and who doesn't. At this time of year, both categories are dynamic. For example, our winter glut of Northern Flickers has evaporated. And the flurries of 10 to 20 Bushtits are no more…only pairs, or pairs of pairs, as winter foraging is replaced by courtship and nest-building. And then there are the new arrivals.

Today brought what is possibly the first-seen migrant White-crowned Sparrow. (Some spend the winter here.) This particular subspecies of WCSP, Zonotrichia leucophrys pugetensis (I’m pretty sure), mostly winters in the US and Mexico, and starts moving past our nook in early April, which would put this bird right on schedule.

White-crowned Sparrow, breeding plumage.

A couple weeks ago (March 14), another WCSP showed up. This one still retained its first winter plumage, why it looks so different. It may have wintered here, but it was only around for a day, so also seemed to be on the move. It may have been of a different subspecies, Z. l. gambelii, which is more apt to winter here. I’m not sure how easy it is to identify the different subspecies in this plumage. Gosh, is its bill yellow-orange to orange-pink (gambelii), or yellow to yellow-orange (pugetensis)? (Why I've never cared much for sub-specific taxonomy.)

White-crowned Sparrow, first winter plumage.

We should be about two weeks from our first 2008 nook-look at the other Zonotrichia species that occurs here, the Golden-crowned Sparrow. They start arriving in the Georgia Depression (eco-province where we live, and what would have been a good alternate name for this blog) from their Californian wintering grounds in mid-April.

Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Last year, this bird visited on April 14. In ten days I’ll be seated in the nook with cereal spoon in hand, binos next to the Cheerios, awaiting his return.


Campbell, R.W., N.K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J.M. Cooper, G.W. Kaiser, A.C. Stewart and M.C.E. McNall. 2001. The Birds of British Columbia. Vol. 4. UBC Press. 8 million pp.

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