I love the “Zebra” sparrows! Of course that’s not their real name, but my nick-name for the White-Crowned Sparrow with its bold black and white striped head. I have been seeing a few in the yard this month and yesterday I was able to get some photos. Check out the pictures and look at some of their distinctive characteristics: plain gray throat, unmarked breast, and bold white stripes on the head. The first year juvenile has brown instead of black and white stripes. October and November are when we get to see White-Crowned Sparrows as they migrate through Michigan. Many of these birds have been nesting way up north in Alaska and the boreal forests of Canada. Now that their breeding season is done they are coming south for the winter months. Most of them will pass through Michigan, but some will stick around and become common visitors to our backyards. They are ground feeders and prefer white proso millet.
Judy’s tip: Keep an eye out for little brown birds foraging on the ground scratching with their feet. It’s a quick clue to take a closer look. Our native sparrows prefer to scratch with their feet much like how chickens feed. The common house sparrow sweeps the ground with their bill in search of seeds. You just might find a “Zebra” Sparrow!