During winter hikes, I often spot White-throated Sparrows. Today, on December 31th, I am sharing a photo of one of these birds perched on a limb, enjoying some seeds. I’m not sure what kind of seeds it was eating.

White-throated Sparrow Feeding During Winter

White-throated Sparrow Feeding During Winter

Here are some interesting facts about White-throated Sparrows during winter feeding:

Dietary Shift:

In summer, they mainly eat insects for protein, but in winter when insects are scarce, they switch to a diet high in fat and carbohydrates of seeds and fruits to conserve energy.

Seed Selection:

They prefer certain seeds, such as ragweed, buckwheat, and millet. They are skillful foragers, using their strong bills to crack open shells and extract the tasty kernels inside.

Unexpected Snacks:

While seeds are their staple food, they occasionally enjoy berries, especially in early winter when they are still available.

Flocking Behavior:

To survive the winter, White-throated Sparrows form loose flocks for warmth and protection. They share information about food sources and keep watch for predators and other threats. Within these flocks, there is a social hierarchy, with dominant birds getting first dibs at the best food sources.

Silent Feasting:

In contrast to their noisy summer behavior, winter sparrows tend to be quieter when feeding to avoid attracting predators.

Adaptations to Cold:

To keep warm in cold weather, White-throated Sparrows fluff up their feathers to create an insulating layer that traps body heat. They may even tuck their bills under their wing feathers for extra warmth. They also spend less time flying and more time hopping on the ground to conserve energy. To prepare for long winter nights, they sometimes cache seeds in hidden locations.

Observing White-throated Sparrows:

They can be seen at bird feeders, especially those offering millet and sunflower seeds. Look for them in wooded areas with undergrowth or dense brush, where they find both food and shelter. Listen for their soft chirps and metallic “chink” sound to communicate with each other.

The adaptations and survival strategies of White-throated Sparrows are fascinating to observe in winter. The next time you spot one searching for seeds, take a moment to appreciate how these tiny birds thrive during the coldest months!

Image Information:

  • Date: 12/18/23
  • Time: 09:37 AM
  • Camera: Canon EOS R5
  • Lens: Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM
  • ISO: 1250
  • Aperture: 7.1
  • Shutter: 1/2500
  • Exp. Comp.: -0.3
  • Lens (mm): 500
  • Program Mode: Manual