Garden News Blog

Birds of Brooklyn: White-Throated Sparrow

Mid-October is the time when the white-throated sparrow starts to arrive in Brooklyn in large numbers. Birdwatchers consider this delightful bird one of the easiest LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) to identify. It has a very distinctive white throat and a clear breast, and the more mature adults have yellow in the lores area (between bill and eye).

The white-throated sparrow is a migrant to the NYC area—it spends its breeding time (May through July) much further north in the Adirondacks and in Canada. This sparrow usually arrives following a cold front and finds food in any area where trees, bushes and grasses produce fruits and seeds. City parks and gardens like Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Prospect Park, and Central Park are perfect.

Look for the white-throated sparrow on the ground where it scratches to find seeds, usually once early in the morning and then again later in the afternoon. If you’re thinking of setting up a backyard feeding station, this will be one species you’ll see from autumn through spring, especially if you keep your feeder well-stocked with black oil sunflower seeds or common seed mixtures containing sunflower seeds and millet. In winter, after a heavy snowstorm, when your spirits seem to have frozen, you just might see this little bird appear. Think of it as signal that the worst is over and cycle of life continues.

Come spring, this little bird will pipe up with a lot of singing. Its song has an English translation which is “Sweet, Canada, Canada, Canada.” You might walk through a city park and hear five to 10 of these birds singing at the same time, a memorable experience indeed.

The Birds of Brooklyn series looks at some of the most familiar and fascinating birds that call Kings County their habitat.

Joe Giunta has led bird walks for the Nature Conservancy and the South Fork Natural History Society and taught a beginning birding course for Summer Fest. He has birded extensively in the U.S., Panama, Belize, Venezuela, and Costa Rica.

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Image, top of page:
White-Throated Sparrow
A male white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) male in the Native Flora Garden. Photo by Steven Severinghaus.
White-Throated Sparrow
A white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) hunts for food on the path near Daffodil Hill after a heavy snow. Photo by Steven Severinghaus.
White-Throated Sparrow
A white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) taking a bath in the stream running through the Plant Family Collection. Photo by Steven Severinghaus.