Boreal Birds
300+ species, billions of birds rely on Canada's boreal forest as critical breeding grounds
© Alejandro Erickson/Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.0)

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Golden-crowned Sparrow
Zonotrichia atricapilla
Perching Birds | Family: New World Sparrows, Emberizidae

An estimated 59% of the global population of Golden-crowned Sparrow breeds in the Boreal Forest. 

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Overview

This species is restricted to western North America where it breeds in the western boreal forest and winters along the Pacific coast from southern British Columbia to California and northern Baja. One or two of these sparrows often join winter flocks of White-crowned Sparrows. They live with the flock but feed more in the shelter of bushes and visit open lawns less often. Migration north begins in April and extends in May and birds begin arriving back on wintering grounds in September and October. Breeds in shrubby areas where forest and tundra zones intermingle, but the species breeding biology has been little-studied.

Description

6-7" (15-18 cm). Similar to White-crowned Sparrow. Male's gold crown bordered by wide black cap. Dusky bill. Brown above, with unstreaked gray breast, cheek, and collar; 2 white wing bars. Fall immatures have 2 dark brown crown stripes with dusky yellowish central area and a trace of "mustache" stripe.

Voice

Song consists of 3 descending plaintive notes sounding like oh, dear me. Calls are tseet and chink.

Nesting

4 or 5 bluish, speckled eggs in a neat cup nest well hidden in a dense weed clump or bush.

Habitat

Alpine meadows and coniferous forest clearings; winters in coastal brushland and chaparral.

Range/Migration

Breeds from western Alaska south through Yukon Territory to northwestern Washington. Winters from Kodiak Island and coastal Alaska south to Baja California.