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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 9.7 years (wild)
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Behavior

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The voice or call of white-throated sparrows sounds like they are saying "Poor Sam Peabody." They use an array of other vocalizations as well.

White-throated sparrows have keen vision and hearing.

Communication Channels: acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Galanti, A. 2002. "Zonotrichia albicollis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Zonotrichia_albicollis.html
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Conservation Status

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White-throated Sparrows are protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Galanti, A. 2002. "Zonotrichia albicollis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Zonotrichia_albicollis.html
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Benefits

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Although the white-throated sparrow does not have direct affects on humans for competition for food or habitat, Zonotrichia albicollis may affect humans by consumption of seeds that might otherwise produce plants that are useful to humans.

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Galanti, A. 2002. "Zonotrichia albicollis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Zonotrichia_albicollis.html
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Benefits

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Zonotrichia albicollis are beneficial to humans because they consume numerous insects that they find in trees, bushes, or shrubs. Eating certain insects that might cause harm to such trees, bushes or shrubs, protects the plants from disease, which indeed benefits humans and aids in the production of more plants.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Galanti, A. 2002. "Zonotrichia albicollis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Zonotrichia_albicollis.html
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Associations

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White-throated sparrows are important members of their ecosystems, being important both as seed dispersers and predators and as prey to larger mammals and birds.

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Galanti, A. 2002. "Zonotrichia albicollis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Zonotrichia_albicollis.html
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Trophic Strategy

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Zonotrichia albicollis, like almost all members of Aves, are omnivores. Their diet consists of seeds, fruits, and insects. Seeds come from the floor of forests and bushy clearings. The white-throated sparrow also finds seeds hidden in grasses and weeds. Zonotrichia albicollis also feed on wild fruits from blackberry tangles, shrubbery, and insects when available and feed young in the nest almost exclusively insects.

Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Galanti, A. 2002. "Zonotrichia albicollis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Zonotrichia_albicollis.html
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Distribution

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During the summer, white-throated sparrows generally breed from northwestern Canada including Central Quebec and Newfoundland, all the way eastward to Minnesota and the Great Lakes, and southward to New England. In the winter, most white-throated sparrows overwinter in the eastern United States, ranging from New England in the north to northern Mexico in the south. In addition, a very small number of Zonotrichia albicollis migrate to West Oregon, occupying the Columbia and Klamath River Basins.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Galanti, A. 2002. "Zonotrichia albicollis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Zonotrichia_albicollis.html
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Habitat

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Zonotrichia albicollis is found mainly in coniferous forests and northern decidious forests. In the winter they can also be found off the western coasts of Oregon, as well as in dry deserts in Texas. Zonotrichia albicollis favors semi-open wooded areas that have sufficient and shrubby growth or brush. White-throated sparrows love to hide in brushy fencerows, in Himalayan blackberry tangles, forest edges, shrubby willows, and even borders of swamps with a dense overgrowth of brush.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest ; scrub forest

Wetlands: swamp

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Galanti, A. 2002. "Zonotrichia albicollis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Zonotrichia_albicollis.html
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Life Expectancy

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A white-throated sparrow banded in the United States lived at least 9 years and 8 months.

Range lifespan
Status: wild:
10 (high) years.

Average lifespan
Status: wild:
116 months.

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Galanti, A. 2002. "Zonotrichia albicollis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Zonotrichia_albicollis.html
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Andrea Galanti, University of California, Irvine
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Morphology

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White-throated sparrows are approximately 2.6 - 2.9 cm long. The head has tan and black stripes on top, with grey below and on the sides of the head. Adults have both tan and white stripes, as opposed to first year birds which only have tan stripes but are heavily streaked underneath. White-throated sparrows are sexually dimorphic, meaning the male and female are somewhat different. There are small variations in the coloration between the males and females. Male sparrows have darker stripes on the head and brighter yellow blotches.

Between the bill and the eyes, on both males and females, there are bright yellow blotches. Zonotrichia albicollis has a "white-throat" with a black border, and a whitish belly. The back is brown with dark streaks and the wings are also brown. White-throated sparrows have dark bills and pink legs. The dark bill separates it from similar white-crowned sparrows.

Average mass: 26 g.

Average length: 17 cm.

Average wingspan: 22.86 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male more colorful

Average mass: 21.1 g.

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.278 W.

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Galanti, A. 2002. "Zonotrichia albicollis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Zonotrichia_albicollis.html
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Associations

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Sparrow eggs, chicks, and even adults are vulnerable to many mammal and bird predators. A few are listed below. To avoid predators, they rely on cryptic coloration (camouflage) and the ability to fly. White-throated sparrow nests are always near trees, stumps, or logs. Sparrows use these places as perches to look out for predators.

Known Predators:

  • raccoons (Procyon lotor)
  • least weasels (Mustela nivalis)
  • Cooper's hawks (Accipiter cooperii)
  • domestic cats (Felis silvestris)
  • great horned owls (Bubo virginianus)
  • American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Galanti, A. 2002. "Zonotrichia albicollis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Zonotrichia_albicollis.html
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Reproduction

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White-throated sparrows reproduce seasonally, mainly during the spring when they have settled into northwestern Canada and northeastern United States. Zonotrichia albicollis lay 3 to 6 eggs, usually 4, in open-roofed nests they build for their young.

Young sparrows can breed in the first year after hatching.

Breeding interval: Usually females only lay eggs once each year, but sometimes after the first brood has left the nest, a female will lay eggs again and raise a second brood of chicks.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs each spring.

Range eggs per season: 3 to 6.

Average eggs per season: 4.

Range time to hatching: 3 to 4 weeks.

Range fledging age: 7 to 12 days.

Average fledging age: 9 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Average eggs per season: 5.

It takes approximately 3 to 4 weeks for the young chick to hatch. Even then, first born sparrows are not well developed; they are altricial, missing feathers, one of the most important forms of insulation. Without feathers, Zonotrichia albicollis cannot fly. The newborn sparrow stays in the nest, waiting for its both parents to feed it and attend to its every need. It fledges 8 or 9 days after it hatches.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

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Galanti, A. 2002. "Zonotrichia albicollis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Zonotrichia_albicollis.html
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Brief Summary

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The White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) breeds in coniferous and mixed coniferous-deciduous forests and around forest edges, clearings, bogs, brush, and open woodlands; in migration and on its wintering grounds, these sparrows are also found in deciduous forest and woodland, scrub, and parks and gardens. White-throated Sparrows breed mainly in Canada, with some additional breeding populations in the northernmost portions of the Great Lakes states and in parts of the northeastern United States. They winter along the Pacific coast of the United States (but are relatively rare here) and in approximately the southeastern half of the United States from New Mexico to Kansas, Ohio, and New Hampshire. This common and widespread sparrow is named for its conspicuously and strongly outlined white throat. It has rusty brown upperparts, a dark bill, dark crown stripes, and a dark eyeline. The broad "eyebrow" (above the eye) is yellow in front of the eye, with the remainder either tan or white (two distinct color morphs). Juveniles have a grayish eyebrow and throat with heavily streaked breast and sides. The song, which is often heard even in winter, is a thin pensive whistle, generally two single notes followed by three triple notes: "Oh sweet Canada Canada Canada" (or "Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody"). The sharp tink and lisping tseep calls are frequently heard from flocks of sparrows in thickets. White-throated Sparrows eat mainly seeds and insects. Insects make up a large part of the diet during the breeding season (and young are fed mainly on insects), but the winter diet consists mainly of "weed" and grass seeds. Especially in fall, many berries may be consumed. White-throated Sparrows forage mainly on the ground under or close to dense thickets, scratching in the leaf litter with both feet. White-throated Sparrows almost always nest on the ground, at a site well hidden by low shrubs, grass, or ferns. They may occasionally nest above ground up to a height of several meters. The nest (built by the female) is an open cup made of grass, twigs, weeds, and pine needles and lined with fine grass, rootlets, and animal hair. The 4 to 5 eggs (sometimes 3 or 6, rarely 2 or 7) are pale blue or greenish blue and marked with reddish brown and lavender. Eggs are incubated (by the female only) for around 11 to 14 days. Both parents feed the nestlings. Young typically leave the nest 8 to 9 days after hatching, but are tended by the parents for at least another 2 weeks. Researchers have identified behavioral differences associated with the white-striped versus tan-striped morphs. Both males and females may exhibit either color, but adults nearly always mate with the opposite color morph. White-striped males tend to be more aggressive and to sing more than tan-striped males. White-striped females also sing, but tan-striped females generally do not. Pairs involving a tan-striped male and white-striped female usually form more quickly than the opposite combination. Tan-striped adults tend to feed their young more than white-striped adults. Migration occurs mostly at night. White-throated Sparrows tend to migrate relatively late in the fall, gradually moving south to their wintering grounds. (Kaufman 1996; AOU 1998; Dunn and Alderfer 2011)
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Comprehensive Description

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Zonotrichia albicollis (Gmelin)

Of 236 nests of this bird found in Ontario and reported to the nest record files at Toronto, 17 (7.2 percent) were parasitized, a higher incidence than the 4.0 percent (20 out of 507 nests) found in southern Quebec (Friedmann, 1963:166). Of these 17 records, 12 are additional to those listed in the earlier compilation, increasing the total from 36 to 48 instances.

FOX SPARROW
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Friedmann, Herbert, Kiff, Lloyd F., and Rothstein, Stephen I. 1977. "A further contribution of knowledge of the host relations of the parasitic cowbirds." Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology. 1-75. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.00810282.235

White-throated sparrow

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 src=
Close-up of a white-throated sparrow head, with bright white throat and yellow lore
 src=
White-throated Sparrows prefer to forage on the ground.

The white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) is a passerine bird of the New World sparrow family Passerellidae.

Etymology

The genus name Zonotrichia is from Ancient Greek zone, "band", and thrix, trikhos, "hair". The specific albicollis is from Latin albus, white, and collum, "neck".[2]

Description

The white-throated sparrow is a passerine bird of the New World sparrow family Passerellidae. It measures 15 to 19 cm (5.9 to 7.5 in) in length with a wingspan of 23 cm (9.1 in). Typical weight is 22 to 32 g (0.78 to 1.13 oz), with an average of 26 g (0.92 oz).[3][4] Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 6.3 to 7.9 cm (2.5 to 3.1 in), the tail is 6.8 to 7.7 cm (2.7 to 3.0 in), the bill is 1 to 1.2 cm (0.39 to 0.47 in) and the tarsus is 2.2 to 2.4 cm (0.87 to 0.94 in).[5] They are similar in appearance to the white-crowned sparrow, but with white throat markings and yellow lores.

There are two adult plumage variations known as the tan-striped and white-striped forms. On the white-striped form the crown is black with a white central stripe. The supercilium is white as well. The auriculars are gray with the upper edge forming a black eye line.[3]

On the tan form, the crown is dark brown with a tan central stripe. The supercilium is tan as well. The auriculars are gray/light brown with the upper edge forming a brown eye line. Both variations feature dark eyes, a white throat, yellow lores and gray bill.[3] There is variation and some individuals may show dark lateral stripes of each side of the throat.

They almost always pair with the opposite color morph for breeding. The two color morphs occur in approximately equal numbers. Both male and female white-striped birds are more aggressive than tan-striped birds during the breeding season.[6][7] The aggression is because of high level of estrogen receptor alpha in white-striped birds.[8]

The breast has gray/tan streaks and the streaks continue down the flanks but the belly is generally light gray. The wings are rufous with two distinct white wing bars. Sexes are morphologically similar.[3]

Behavior

Reproduction

White-throated sparrows breed in central Canada and New England. They nest either on the ground under shrubs or low in trees in deciduous or mixed forest areas and lay three to five brown-marked blue or green-white eggs.

The tan and white morphs of white-throated sparrows use different reproductive strategies. Tan males invest in parental care and guard their mates from others searching for extra pair copulations (EPCs). White males invest in securing additional mates and EPCs through song advertisement and intruding into neighboring territory. Female morphs have similar differences, where tan females invest in parental care and white females solicit EPCs and engage in brood parasitism, leaving their eggs in another's nest to be raised and fed. Mating with the opposite morphs and using alternative reproductive strategies helps maintain competitive equilibrium.[9]

Wintering and migration

In winter, this species migrates to the southern and eastern United States. They are differential migrants with females migrating farther, increasing the proportion of females at lower latitudes in the Atlantic flyway. Females are smaller so they would not perform as optimally at colder, higher latitudes, and females avoid competition with the dominant males of the winter hierarchies by migrating farther. There is also no benefit for females to be among the first to return after winter, so migrating farther allows the males to return and establish territory a few weeks before their arrival.[10] It stays year round in the Atlantic provinces of Canada. This bird is a rare vagrant to western Europe. Alongside some other species such as the cardinal, dark-eyed junco, song sparrow and chickadees, this species ranks among the most abundant native birds during winter in eastern North America.[11]

Despite a high level of con-specific rivalry within white-throated sparrows, this species is often dominated by other seed-eating winter residents, even those that are no larger than itself like the song sparrow, and thus may endure high levels of predation while foraging since restricted to sub-optimal sites at times by competition.[12] Not to mention numerous mammalian carnivores, at least ten avian predators often hunt them and they are among the most regular prey species for some smaller raptors, i.e. the sharp-shinned hawk and eastern screech-owl.[13][14]

Diet

These birds forage on the ground under or near thickets or in low vegetation. They mainly eat seeds, insects and berries, and are attracted to bird feeders.

Song and calls

Song of the white-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrows produce song laterally through the left side of their syrinx, and control of their syrinx involves both their central and peripheral nervous systems. After damage to motor control of the left side of the syrinx, individuals were still able to produce sound but their song pattern was distorted, indicating the left side chiefly controls their production of song.[15] There are at least two distinct songs sung by this species. One consists of an initial note, followed by three or so repeated notes at an interval of about a major third above. The second song consists of an initial note, a second a whole step lower, and a third note, repeated two or three times, about a minor third below that. This second song is commonly described by use of mnemonics with the cadence of "Po-or Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody" (or "O-oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada") The rhythm is very regular, and the timbre could be described as pinched. These musical intervals are only approximate; to a human ear the song often sounds out of tune. The repeated note will often change in pitch very slightly, contributing to this effect.

As reported by National Geographic in 2020, ornithologists have discovered a new song for the white-throated sparrow. This bird song begins in the same way as the typical song, but with a subtle difference: the repeating triplets, as in "Peabody", become doublets, as in "Cherry", ending with a final single tone. This new tune began to appear in British Columbia, Canada, and then spread east.[16]

The white-throated sparrow also has at least two calls, in addition to its song.

Footnotes

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Zonotrichia albicollis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.old-form url
  2. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London, United Kingdom: Christopher Helm. pp. 38, 414. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  3. ^ a b c d Sibley, David A. (2000). National Audubon Society The Sibley Field Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 494. ISBN 0-679-45122-6.
  4. ^ Wolfson, Albert (1954). "Body Weight and Fat Deposition in Captive White-Throated Sparrows in Relation to the Mechanics of Migration". The Wilson Bulletin. 66 (2): 112–118. JSTOR 4158288.
  5. ^ Byers, Clive; Olsson, Urban (1995). Sparrows and Buntings: A Guide to the Sparrows and Buntings of North America and the World. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0395738733.
  6. ^ GrrlScientist (26 May 2011). "Sparrows show us a new way to have sexes". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-06-29.
  7. ^ Arnold, Carrie (24 November 2016). "The sparrow with four sexes". Nature. 539 (7630): 482–484. doi:10.1038/539482a. PMID 27882995. S2CID 4457436.
  8. ^ "Study shows how a single gene drives aggression in wild songbird". phys.org. Retrieved 2020-08-30.
  9. ^ Tuttle, Elaina (1 May 2003). "Alternative reproductive strategies in the white-throated sparrow: behavioral and genetic evidence". Behavioral Ecology. 14 (3): 425–432. doi:10.1093/beheco/14.3.425.
  10. ^ Jenkins, Kendell; Cristol, Daniel (1 April 2002). "Evidence of Differential Migration by Sex in White-Throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia Albicollis)". The Auk. 119 (2): 539–543. doi:10.1093/auk/119.2.539.
  11. ^ Bock, C. E.; Prickles, R. E. (1983). "Range size and local abundance of some North American songbirds: a positive correlation". The American Naturalist. 122 (2): 295–299. doi:10.1086/284136. JSTOR 2461236. S2CID 84017778.
  12. ^ Piper, W. H. (1990). "Exposure to predators and access to food in wintering white-throated sparrows Zonotrichia albicollis". Behaviour. 112 (3/4): 284–298. doi:10.1163/156853990x00248. JSTOR 4534842.
  13. ^ Roth, T. C., II; Lima, S. L. (2007). "The predatory behavior of wintering Accipiter hawks: temporal patterns in activity of predators and prey". Oecologia. 152 (1): 169–178. Bibcode:2007Oecol.152..169R. doi:10.1007/s00442-006-0638-2. PMID 17216210. S2CID 6114288.
  14. ^ VanCamp, L. F.; Henry, C. J. (1975). "The screech owl: its life history and population ecology in northern Ohio". North American Fauna. 71 (75): 1–65. doi:10.3996/nafa.71.0001. hdl:2027/uc1.aa0006758312.
  15. ^ Lemon, Robert (September 1973). "Nervous control of the syrinx in White‐throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis)". Journal of Zoology. 171 (1): 131–140. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1973.tb07520.x.
  16. ^ Sparrows are singing a new song, in a rapid, unprecedented shift. Wetzel, Corryn.National Geographic, July 2, 2020. Retrieved 5 July 2020.

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White-throated sparrow: Brief Summary

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 src= Close-up of a white-throated sparrow head, with bright white throat and yellow lore  src= White-throated Sparrows prefer to forage on the ground.

The white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) is a passerine bird of the New World sparrow family Passerellidae.

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