A White-Crowned Visitor

This morning, a lone white-crowned sparrow stopped by our farm, foraging beneath the feeders with a number of permanent residents.  After nesting near timberline across the Front Range, these hardy songbirds move to lower elevations for the winter, preferring open fields and grasslands with nearby shrubs and thickets.  Some spend the winter on the Colorado Piedmont but most head for the Southern Plains.

Unlike many sparrows, white-crowns are omnivorous, consuming seeds, insects and berries.  Usually encountered in flocks during the colder months, they scour clearings, escaping to thickets or hedgerows if threatened by predators.  Abandoned farmlands offer ideal habitat for these sparrows and they are often observed along fence lines on country roads.

Today's visitor was surely the first of many to drop by our farm in the coming months but their numbers along the Front Range urban corridor usually peak in early May as migrants await snowmelt in their lofty breeding grounds.  Those not heading for the high terrain of the Western Mountains will continue northward to nest on the Arctic tundra of Alaska and Canada.