Birds – White-throated Sparrow

(Zonotrichia albicollis) Finch family


Length—6.75 to 7 inches. Larger than the English sparrow.

Male and Female—A black crown divided by narrow white line. Yellow spot before the eye, and a white line, apparently running through it, passes backward to the nape. Conspicuous white throat. Chestnut back, varied with black and whitish. Breast gray, growing lighter uhderneath. Wings edged with rufous and with two white cross-bars.

Range—Eastern North America. Nests from Michigan and Massachusetts northward to Labrador. Winters from southern New England to Florida.

Migrations—April. October. Abundant during migrations, and in many States a winter resident.

“I-I, Pea-body, Pea-body, Pea-body,” are the syllables of the white-throat’s song heard by the good New Englanders, who have a tradition that you must either be a Peabody or a nobody there; while just over the British border the bird is distinctly understood to say, ” Swee-e-e-t Can-a-da, Can-a-da, Can-a-da.”

” All day, whit-tle-ing, whit-tle-ing, whit-tle-ing,” the Maine people declare he sings ; and Hamilton Gibson told of a perplexed farmer, Peverly by name, who, as he stood in the field undecided as to what crop to plant, clearly heard the bird advise, “Sow wheat, Pev-er-ly, Pev-er-ly, Pev-er-ly.” Such divergence of opinion, which is really slight compared with the verbal record of many birds’ songs, only goes to show how little the sweetness of birds’ music, like the perfume of a rose, depends upon a name.

In a family not distinguished for good looks, the white-throated sparrow is conspicuously handsome, especially after the spring moult. In midwinter the feathers grow dingy and the markings indistinct ; but as the season advances, his colors are sure to brighten perceptibly, and before he takes the northward journey in April, any little lady sparrow might feel proud of the attentions of so fine-looking and sweet-voiced a lover. The black, white, and yellow markings on his head are now clear and beautiful. His figure is plump and aristocratic.

These sparrows are particularly sociable travellers, and cordially welcome many stragglers to their flocks—not during the migrations only, but even when winter’s snow affords only the barest gleanings above it. Then they boldly peck about the dog’s plate by the kitchen door and enter the barn-yard, calling their feathered friends with a sharp ‘seep to follow them. Seeds and insects are their chosen food, and were they not well wrapped in an adipose coat under their feathers, there must be many a winter night when they would go shivering, supperless, to their perch.

In the dark of midnight one may sometimes hear the white-throat softly singing in its dreams.