White-Throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)


White-throated sparrow./T. Berriman

General: White-throated sparrows use similar habitats year-round: in the northern breeding areas, during migration, and on the southern wintering range. They seek out softwood and mixed hardwood-and-softwood forest edges and openings where dense understory vegetation abounds. In spring and summer, white-throated sparrows breed in areas where forest disturbances have created canopy gaps or clearings; within these openings, they nest in the dense, shrubby understory, on or near the ground. In summer, white-throated sparrows eat mainly insects, which they catch on the forest floor or after short flights; parents feed their nestlings almost exclusively on animal foods. In fall and winter, white-throated sparrows eat seeds of grasses and weeds, plus fruits of shrubs and vines.

Status: Although white-throated sparrows remain widespread and abundant, they declined over most of their range by approximately 35 percent between 1966 and 2014. During that same period, their population fell by about 63 percent in the United States. The white-throated sparrow is listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

How to Help White-Throated Sparrows: These birds quickly increase in abundance in openings in the forest caused by natural disturbances or through forest management practices such as logging or burning, all of which result in the dense, quickly growing shrubby understory that white-throated sparrows need.
Both public and private landowners can make young forest habitat. The Young Forest Guide explains how.

Click on the map at left to see a larger image.

For more detailed information on the white-throated sparrow, including references to scientific papers, download Under Cover: Wildlife of Shrublands and Young Forest. This publication can also be purchased from the Wildlife Management Institute.

Visit a habitat demonstration area within this species' range to increase your chances of seeing white-throated sparrows and other wildlife that need young forest.