Oh Me, Deary-Deary-Me

You know that spring is here when early wildflowers come into bloom and newly arrived migrants from the south begin singing to to attract mates. Year round residents also join the chorus and this week during my lunch time walk I’ve seen (and heard) a couple of White-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) singing from the tops of low trees along the country lanes.

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys). Note the stylish black and white stripes on its head.

I’ve been trying to take some pictures of these sparrows  over the last couple of months to add to my collection of winter sparrows. I’ve seen them off and on over the course of the year but until now they’ve been rather secretive and hard to see long enough to get a good photograph. With the arrival of spring the importance of attracting a mate the males are advertising in earnest from tree tops. Now the challenge is to get close enough.

White-crowned Sparrows are gorgeous, chunky little sparrows. Look for a sparrow with white and black “racing stripes” on its head which contrast with the crisp gray breast. The back of the bird is a beautiful streaked brown and gray, with rusty-red, black and white highlights. The bill of this sparrow is yellowish to pale pink.

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) Singing
A partially obscured White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) singing from the safety of the roadside thicket.

By far the easiest way to find a White-crowned Sparrow at this time of the year is to listen – follow the “Oh Me, Deary-Deary-Me” and you should find one singing from a tree top or shrub. It’s a sure sign that the dreary winter has come to an end and spring is well on its way!