Make the ID: White-crowned vs White-throated Sparrow

Sparrows can be confusing, but there are a few that are not difficult to recognize – White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows. Here’s how to make the ID:

The simplest way is to be able to observe the obvious things for which they are named (throat and crown respectively) – but if you cannot see the entire front of the bird, then both will appear to have black and white-striped crowns. So, look for these differences…
  1. THROAT: White-throated Sparrows have a white throat patch which is lacking in White-crowned Sparrows
  2. EYES: White-throated Sparrows have a yellow spot between the eye and bill which White-crowned sparrows lack
  3. FACIAL MARKINGS: White-throated Sparrows have strong black and white markings, while White-crowned Sparrows have black and grey only on their face.
  4. SHAPE: White-throated Sparrows are rounder and rather plump while White-crowned Sparrows are thinner and have a longer tail
  5. HEAD SHAPE: If the head has a little peak, then this is a White-crowned Sparrow.
  6. SONG: White-throated Sparrows have a distinctive call that can go either up or down in tone; White-crowned Sparrows have a thinner song with some buzziness.
White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows; Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel