White-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) - local seasonal appearance

Based on 25 observations in Seymour township, Northumberland county, southeast Ontario, June 1998- December 2020.

The white-throated sparrow is a distinctive little bird, when seen in plain view. It has a white throat and a yellow spot between eye and bill. Adults display striped heads in two forms: black- and- white and brown- and- tan. It is most often seen in October, in the fall migration. There are 5 sightings in winter and spring, 16 January-24 May, and 20 from 19 September to 27 October. Commonly an individual is seen, and rarely a flock.

The white-throated sparrow is widely distributed, breeding across Ontario with the notable exception of the far southwest of the province, where evidence of nesting is sparse between Lake Erie and southern Lake Huron (Cadman et al., 1987, pp.462-463). This pattern of distribution was affirmed by further data collection (Cadman et al., 2007, pp.566-567), with especial abundance noted in the boreal forest, 47-51 degrees north. The species is found across Canada from northeast British Columbia to Newfoundland. It does well in habitats such as clearings generated by forest fires and logging operations. Rarely it may be found outside this east-west summer range, as in one sighting in southern Baffin Island (West Foxe Islands) on 03 July 1955 (Godfrey, 1979, pp.398-399). The winter range extends from the southern Great Lakes through the U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico.

Nearer home, at Presqu'ile park, the white-throated sparrow is a common spring and fall migrant, a rare winter resident, and present in summer as a few breeding pairs (LaForest, 1993, pp.361-362). In the Kawarthas, to the north and west, the bird is an abundant summer resident in wet woodlands (Sadler, 1983, pp.151-152).

View the near-complete 23-year (1998-2020) monthly data summary (737-kb pdf file).


Cadman,MD, Eagles,PFJ and Helleiner,FM (1987) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Long Point Bird Observatory, published by University of Waterloo Press, 617pp.

Cadman,MD, Sutherland,DA, Beck,GG, Lepage,D and Couturier,AR (editors) (2007) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Bird Studies Canada, Environment Canada, Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Nature, 706pp.

Godfrey,WE (1979) The Birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa, 428pp.

LaForest,SM (1993) Birds of Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Friends of Presqu'ile Park / Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 436pp.

Sadler,D (1983) Our Heritage of Birds: Peterborough County in the Kawarthas. Peterborough Field Naturalists / Orchid Press, Peterborough, ON, 192pp.

Graham Wilson, posted 28-29 November 2020, up to date through 31 December 2020

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