Notice for readers: On March 31, Neotropical Birds will be integrated into the new Birds of the World, a powerful research database offering species accounts for every species on earth. Learn more at While Birds of the World is a subscription service, we remain committed to offering this content to Neotropical Birds contributors and to those unable to pay for it through our scholarship program. Stay tuned.

White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Passerellidae
  • Polytypic: 5 subspecies
  • Authors needed...
  • © Julio Alejandro Álvarez Ruiz

The White-crowned Sparrow is very widespread in North America. Mostly it is a tree-line breeder, either at the edge of the Boreal Forest, or up high in the mountains. However, there is a Pacific Coast population which takes shrubby habitats, even suburban habitats, at or near Sea Level on the coast! The more northern Boreal Forest populations are much more migratory than the Pacific Coast populations. It is these Boreal birds that winter as far south as the Greater Antilles and Mexico. White-crowned Sparrows are striped on the head, showing actually a black crown with a white median stripe. There is a bold white supercilium and a dark eyeline, reaching to the bill in some forms, and not in others. Above they are brownish, striped darker with two white wing bars. Below they show whitish-grey underparts with buffier flanks. The more northern populations have a pinkish to orange-pink bill. Young in this species maintain a dull plumage through their first winter, in the young birds the black and white head striping is replaced by brown and buff; yet the pattern is very much like that of adults.

Help complete this species

There are many ways to contribute—we need species information, photographs, audio, video, translations, maps, distribution data, and bird sightings. There's a role for everyone!

Learn more


© Arthur A. Allen

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: