A White-throated Sparrow Day

A heavy white frost covered open areas of grass and rimmed the edges of leaves early this morning, making, with a bright sun, cloudless blue sky, and warm fall colors, a sparkling and colorful November day – and a perfect setting for the return of White-throated Sparrows. Their sweet, high, whistled songs were the first thing I heard as I stepped out the door, coming not from one, but from several hidden spots in the shrubs around our front yard and neighbors’ yards. Here – there – here again – a clear, lovely song curled up like a wisp of fog. Later I heard the songs all through the neighborhood, too – not in great numbers, but quite a few. I’ve heard one or two stray songs before today, but this is really the first day when many were announcing their return. 

White-throated Sparrows are among our most abundant winter birds here, and are certainly among my favorites. They are large, plump, handsome sparrows, with a brown-streaked back, gray breast, black-and-white striped crown and face, a gold accent mark between the eye and bill, and a neat white throat. The mature sparrows always look very sharply dressed. Immatures may show less-distinct markings and more streaks, and there are usually a mix of the two. They forage for food on the ground, scratching up leaves and mulch, and very often visit our bird feeder or the ground under it – though today, even though it was clear they have arrived, they stayed hidden in the shrubs. 

They sing even through the winter months, and their songs are among the most beautiful and haunting music of the season. 

Welcome back! 

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