Bird Database

White-throated Sparrow

(Zonotrichia albicollis)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance


Strongly Decreasing


Habitat loss and fragmentation, Predation, Collisions, Pesticides

Conservation Actions

Maintain a bird friendly yard

White-throated Sparrow

(Zonotrichia albicollis)

White-throated Sparrows are one of the most abundant breeding birds in New Hampshire’s northern and higher elevation conifer and mixed forest, but only occur in scattered locations (often bogs) south and east of Concord. In winter, however, this pattern is reversed, and white-throats are concentrated in the southeast and the major river valleys. But while still common, this sparrow is in long-term decline in New Hampshire and the Northeast in general. The reasons for this decline are not well understood, but could include loss of shrubby edge habitat to forest succession. It is also a frequent victim of window collisions during migration, and studies have demonstrated lowered physiological performance after prolonged exposure to pesticides.

At the same time, winter data for New Hampshire show a slight and very gradual increase possibly a result of bird feeders, gradually moderating climate, or a combination of both. Winter data from farther south show the same declines as the breeding data, albeit not as dramatic, so the increases in New Hampshire almost certainly reflect a slight northward shift of the non-breeding range.

White-throated Sparrows come in two color morphs, a bright one with bold white stripes on its head (hereafter white-striped) and a dull one where the stripes are tan (tan-striped). These differences are not based on sex, meaning that both males and females can be of either morph. In fact, each morph almost always mates with the opposite one, meaning that you’ll rarely encounter a pair consisting of two white-striped birds. So contrary to popular perception, white-striped birds are not necessarily males and tan-striped ones females.

These morphs result from a gene change in a single chromosome pair and are correlated with consistent behavioral differences. White-striped birds are more aggressive, sing more (including the females), and exhibit less parental care (particularly the males) than tan-striped birds. If you have White-throated Sparrows at your feeders in the winter, you can observe interactions between the two morphs – chances are you’ll see the brighter birds chasing off the duller ones more than the other way around.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

White-throated Sparrow
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count