This woodland sparrow of the East frequents feeders or feeds along woodland edges, darting for cover if disturbed. It may reemerge in response to pishing and can occur in large flocks (up to 150) in winter. Monotypic. Length 6.8".
Conspicuously outlined white throat; mostly dark bill; dark crown stripes, eye line. Broad yellow eyebrow in front; remainder white. Upperparts rusty brown; underparts grayish, sometimes diffuse streaking. Note fairly common morph: some adults with tan supercilium and median crown stripe; difficult to distinguish from first-winter plumage. First-winter: tan supercilium and median crown stripe; ill-defined white throat patch, often prominent malar stripe. Juvenile: grayish eyebrow, throat; breast, sides heavily streaked.
Call: a sharp pink, like the white-crowned’s but higher. Flocking birds give husky chatter. Flight note: drawn-out, lisping tseep. Song: thin whistle, generally 1 to 2 single notes, followed by 3 to 4 long notes, sometimes tripled: pure sweet Canada Canada Canada. Often sings in winter.
Status and Distribution
Common. Some winter south to northern Mexico. Winter: common in woodland undergrowth, brush, gardens. Breeding: clearings in deciduous or evergreen forests, bogs. Migration: spring late March–mid-May, peaking mid-April; fall mid-September–early November, peaking mid-October. Rare but regular in migration and winter in the West. Vagrant: casual to northern Alaska.
—From the National Geographic book Complete Birds of North America, 2006