My White-throated Sparrows Blew in with Ida

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White-throated sparrow rests after long migration

They’re as common as… well, a sparrow, but I do love these little birds that return from their breeding grounds up north to spend the winter in our cotoneaster.  I like to think the same family returns year after year as they seem so familiar with their surroundings and almost seem happy to see us.  As soon as they arrive, I sprinkle sunflower chips over their same feeding station on the ground and they know the routine.

cotoneaster beneath the ginkgo tree

Just outside our bedroom retreat, we dug a small fish pond and surrounded it with a dense semi-circle of cotoneaster.  It has created a thick tangle of screening around the pond and bird feeders, providing a favorite haven of protection for our returning white-throated sparrows.  The cotoneaster shrub is a mounding and spreading evergreen thicket that birds love.  A member of the rose family, it is not a showy shrub but it is perfect for our needs.  It is drought tolerant and requires only an occasional pruning to keep it’s shape.  The inconspicuous white flowers in the spring are followed by showy red berries in the fall and attracts many of our fine feathered friends, especially our white-throated sparrow.

This sparrow is a medium-sized bird with a striped breast and a large white throat.  Its head is striped black and white with distinct yellow patches above the eyes.  It loves the thicket we have provided and will move in and out all winter, dining on spilled bird seed from the feeder or on what I supply over the ground.  Other birds move in and out of the cotoneaster during the day but for the white-throated sparrows, it is home.  They will gather in numbers to roost in the cotoneaster at night and at sunrise, they begin to provide us with their sweet “chips” and their lovely clear song, “sweet, sweet Canada, Canada, Canada,”  which is quite appropriate since Canada is a major area of their breeding grounds.

As our natural habitat shrinks from over development, think about how you can supply shrubs and thickets around your yard for bird habitat.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

3 thoughts on “My White-throated Sparrows Blew in with Ida

  1. Beautiful little birds… I love their songs too. House sparrows are everywhere. We have them here in Australia and also in Indonesia (where I was born).

    Thanks for your comment and I hope you don’t mind if I put you on my blogroll for easier navigation:)


  2. Hehe hmmm. Not exactly House Sparrows but hey! It must be a special feeling to have these birds return to your garden every year. Here in Cairns, Australia, we have a number of migratory birds returning or leaving before the wet season. My favourite has to be the Pied Imperial Pigeon (Ducula bicolor) which returns from Papua New Guinea every wet to breed. They have long bellowing calls that go “Whooooooooo”! It is the first sign that the wet season is about to begin. They nest in every sizable fig tree in Cairns, as well as several other rainforest species of large tree.


    • No, they are our little white-throated sparrows. We love birding but our birds seem pretty drab after seeing your Down Under birding photos of North Queensland, a tropical paradise for birding. Great photos!


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