Camping with a White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

On my first night at Cape Lookout State Park, I made sure to set my alarm before falling asleep in my tent.  I didn’t want to be late for the first day of the Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writers Workshop.

Around 6 a.m. it became apparent that there was no need for an alarm.  Somewhere, perched near my tent, was a bird calling out to his peers.

Click here to listen to the bird’s song.

Every morning my campsite was visited by this little bird.  I struggled to see its colors and details.  Luckily, I managed to capture some photos.  I was able to zoom into the photos and was amazed by the bird’s distinct black and white crown.


When I got home, I did a Google search.  I typed bird with black and white striped head.  I thought I would end up with a huge sorting project, but no.  I quickly discovered that I had encountered the White-crowned Sparrow.  The most helpful website was the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  I was able to read descriptions, look at pictures and video, and listen to different songs and calls of the White-crowned Sparrow.

For the most part, the White-crowned sparrow hangs out in North America during the winter.  Some, though, hang out on the west coast all year long.  The like to live in shrubby, brushy places and aren’t opposed to finding a bird feeder in a kind person’s backyard.

I listened to the online recordings of the bird’s song, and I was disappointed.  The recordings sort of sounded like my bird, but not exactly.  I kept reading more about the bird to make sure I found the right one.  That’s when I found an interesting fact about the male White-crowned Sparrow.  These little guys have regional dialects.  They grow up learning songs specific to their local bird community.  I shouldn’t expect the songs recorded online to sound exactly like the bird at my campsite.


Meeting the White-crowned sparrow this summer was quite a treat.  It has inspired me to learn more about birds in my neighborhood.  I know we have a community of mockingbirds, but there are other birds here too.  We have hummingbirds and I believe some kind of sparrow.  Last night I refilled the bird feeders outside of my kitchen window.  Once birds start visiting again, I am going to set up my video camera in the hopes of catching some footage that will help me identify the birds in my neighborhood.


About misslittleowl

A teacher writing about local happenings, school adventures, intriguing books, desert gardening, and whatever else she stumbles upon that needs sharing.
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