Zonotrichia leucophrys - (Forster, 1772)
White-crowned Sparrow
Other English Common Names: white-crowned sparrow
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Zonotrichia leucophrys (J. R. Forster, 1772) (TSN 179455)
French Common Names: bruant à couronne blanche
Spanish Common Names: Gorrión Corona Blanca
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.106488
Element Code: ABPBXA4040
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Perching Birds
Image 10802

© Dick Cannings

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Passeriformes Passerellidae Zonotrichia
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Zonotrichia leucophrys
Taxonomic Comments: Five subspecies are recognized: Zonotrichia leucophrys leucophrys, Z. l. gambelii, Z. l. oriantha, Z. l. pugetensis and Z. l. nuttalli. Substantial gene flow occurs between subspecies pugetensis and nuttalli (Corbin and Wilkie 1988).

Mitochondrial DNA data indicate that relative to most congeneric avian comparisons, the five species of Zonotrichia are closely related; leucophrys is most closely related to the Golden-crowned Sparrow, Z. atricapilla (Zink et al. 1991).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 10Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 04Dec1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Large range in North America; abundant; secure.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5B,N5N (05Jan1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5B,N5N,N5M (26Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S4N), Alaska (S5B), Arizona (S1B,S5N), Arkansas (S5N), California (SNRB,SNRN), Colorado (S5), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), District of Columbia (S3N), Florida (SNRN), Georgia (S4), Idaho (S5), Illinois (SNA), Indiana (S4N), Iowa (S3N), Kansas (S4N), Kentucky (S4N), Louisiana (S4N), Maine (SNA), Maryland (S3S4N), Massachusetts (S4N), Michigan (SNRN), Minnesota (SNA), Mississippi (SNA), Missouri (SNRN), Montana (S5B), Navajo Nation (S5N), Nebraska (SNRN), Nevada (S5), New Hampshire (SNA), New Jersey (S4N), New Mexico (S5B,S5N), New York (SNRN), North Carolina (S4N), North Dakota (SNA), Ohio (SNRN), Oklahoma (S5N), Oregon (S5), Pennsylvania (S3N), Rhode Island (SNA), South Carolina (SNRN), South Dakota (SNA), Tennessee (S4N), Texas (S5), Utah (S4), Vermont (SNA), Virginia (S4N), Washington (S5B,S5N), West Virginia (S4N), Wisconsin (SNA), Wyoming (S5B,S5N)
Canada Alberta (S5B), British Columbia (S5B), Labrador (S5B,S5M), Manitoba (S5B), New Brunswick (S4M), Newfoundland Island (S4B,SUM), Northwest Territories (S4S5B), Nova Scotia (SNA), Nunavut (SUB,SUM), Ontario (S4B), Quebec (S5), Saskatchewan (S5B), Yukon Territory (S5B)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Breeding range extends from northern Alaska to Labrador, south to southern California, Nevada, central Arizona, northern New Mexico, central Manitoba, southeastern Quebec, and Newfoundland. The five recognized subspecies are fairly distinct in their distributions, with very little overlap of breeding areas (Morton 2002). Subspecies nuttalli is a nonmigratory resident of coastal California; pugetensis breeds along the Pacific coast from northern California to southern British Columbia; oriantha breeds in the central western United States and the Sierra Nevada; leucophrys breeds across northern Quebec, Labrador, and Newfoundland; and gambelii breeds throughout Alaska east to northwestern Ontario and south to southcentral British Columbia (Dunn et al. 1995).

During the nonbreeding season, the species ranges casually to central and southcentral Alaska and occurs regularly from southern British Columbia, southeastern Washington, southern Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky to western North Carolina, south to southern Baja California and southern mainland of Mexico, Gulf coast, and Cuba. Subspecies pugetensis winters along the Pacific coast from Washington to southern California; oriantha winters from the southern U.S. border to Baja California and southern Mexico; leucophrys winters in the eastern United States north to the Great Lakes and rarely in New England north to Massachusetts; and gambelii winters throughout the western United States and sparsely in the eastern United States (Dunn et al. 1995).

Area of Occupancy: >12,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: > 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: This species is represented by a very large number of occurrences (subpopulations).

Population Size: >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Global population estimate is 72,000,000 individuals (Rich et al. 2004). Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data estimate relative abundance in the U.S. at 2.53 birds/route (n = 239) for the period 1966 to 2005 and 1.24 birds/route (n = 84) in Canada for the same time period (Sauer et al. 2005)

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very many (>125)

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Few threats exist overall. In some areas there is concern related to brood parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird (Trail and Baptista 1993), habitat alteration due to cattle grazing (Favis 2000), and natural mortality caused by predation (Morton et al. 1993, Chilton et al. 1995) and inclement weather (Morton 2002).

Cowbird parasitism is not a problem in most areas, but in the San Francisco Bay area, subspecies nuttalli experienced a large increase in the rate of brood parasitism that could threaten long-term population persistence (Trail and Baptista 1993).

Although this species utilizes disturbed areas during the breeding season, disturbance as a result of cattle grazing has been shown to have a negative effect on sparrow populations. Reduced nest success in California coastal scrub communities (compared to undisturbed habitat) was attributed to habitat alteration as a result of grazing (Favis 2000).

Predation contributes substantially to egg and nestling mortality in some populations (Chilton et al. 1995). Predation by Belding's ground squirrels (Spermophilus beldingi) was the largest cause of nest failure during a 19-year study in the Sierra Nevada, California (Morton et al. 1993).

Activities of human investigators may also increase the likelihood of nest predation and desertion (Morton et al. 1993; Chilton et al. 1995). Nest loss and desertion also have been attributed to weather effects such as late spring snowfall (Morton 2002).

Short-term Trend Comments: Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data indicate a significant population decrease of -1.2% per year (P< 0.01, n = 227) in the United States between 1966 and 2005 (Sauer et al. 2005). BBS data indicate long-term declines (1966-2005) in California, Colorado, and Oregon (Sauer et al. 2005). The population in the San Francisco Bay area, California, has experienced a large increase in the rate of brood parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird such that long-term persistence of the sparrow population may be threatened (Trail and Baptista 1993). Populations in Idaho and Montana appear to be declining, but numbers have fluctuated greatly (Dobkin 1994).

BBS trend data for Canada indicate a nonsignificant increase of 2.3% per year for the same time period. However, the Canadian BBS samples only the southern edge of the range; BBS trend data for Alaska (which may reflect northern populations better) indicate a nonsignificant decline of -1.3% per year (P< 0.09, n = 76; Sauer et al. 2005).

Migration counts from southern Ontario indicate stability over 40 years, and populations are apparently stable in Alberta (Semenchuk 1992).

Small isolated populations are thought to experience cycles of extinction and recolonization (Morton 2002).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Where possible, surveys should be conducted to help determine population size for each subspecies. Areas where population changes may be occurring should be identified. Migratory habits need study.

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Breeding range extends from northern Alaska to Labrador, south to southern California, Nevada, central Arizona, northern New Mexico, central Manitoba, southeastern Quebec, and Newfoundland. The five recognized subspecies are fairly distinct in their distributions, with very little overlap of breeding areas (Morton 2002). Subspecies nuttalli is a nonmigratory resident of coastal California; pugetensis breeds along the Pacific coast from northern California to southern British Columbia; oriantha breeds in the central western United States and the Sierra Nevada; leucophrys breeds across northern Quebec, Labrador, and Newfoundland; and gambelii breeds throughout Alaska east to northwestern Ontario and south to southcentral British Columbia (Dunn et al. 1995).

During the nonbreeding season, the species ranges casually to central and southcentral Alaska and occurs regularly from southern British Columbia, southeastern Washington, southern Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky to western North Carolina, south to southern Baja California and southern mainland of Mexico, Gulf coast, and Cuba. Subspecies pugetensis winters along the Pacific coast from Washington to southern California; oriantha winters from the southern U.S. border to Baja California and southern Mexico; leucophrys winters in the eastern United States north to the Great Lakes and rarely in New England north to Massachusetts; and gambelii winters throughout the western United States and sparsely in the eastern United States (Dunn et al. 1995).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NN, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Canada AB, BC, LB, MB, NB, NF, NS, NT, NU, ON, QC, SK, YT

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; WILDSPACETM 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AZ Coconino (04005)*, Pima (04019)
ID Cassia (16031), Gooding (16047), Lincoln (16063), Owyhee (16073)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
15 Canyon Diablo (15020015)+*, Lower Little Colorado (15020016)+*, San Cristobal Wash (15070203)+, Rio Sonoyta (15080102)+
17 Lake Walcott (17040209)+, Upper Snake-Rock (17040212)+, Big Wood (17040219)+, Upper Owyhee (17050104)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A medium-sized songbird.
General Description: See Dunn et al. (1995) for detailed information on identification of subspecies.
Reproduction Comments: At the northern end of the range in the Northwest Territories, most initiated nesting in the second or third week in June, after the breeding habitat was at least 60% snow free (Norment 1992). Clutch size is 2-5, often 4-5, rarely 6. Incubation, by the female, lasts 9-15 days (range-wide average is 12 days). Young are tended by both parents, leave nest in 9-11 days, fed to some degree for additional 25-30 days. May produce several broods annually on California coast (Petrinovich and Patterson 1983).
Ecology Comments: May form flocks in winter, up to about 10-20 in southeastern U.S., 30-50 in West.

A large proportion of eggs and nestlings may be lost to predators (e.g., garter snakes, ground squirrels) in even a stable population (Petrinovich and Patterson 1983, Morton et al. 1993).

Permanent resident birds (nuttalli) on West Coast maintain year-round territories.

Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: Mostly a long-distance migrant, but migrations are more localized in the western U.S., and a sedentary subspecies (nuttalli) occurs along the coast of California. Migrations occur mainly in April-May and August-October. See Dunn et al. (1995) for information on the timing of migrations of the various subspecies.

Breeding population arrived in May and June in the Sierra Nevada (California), departed in September and October (Morton and Pereyra 1994); juveniles departed on migration in late September after most had traveled some distance from their birth site (Morton 1992).

In the Northwest Territories, adults began arriving on breeding grounds during the last week in May; remained until early September (Norment 1992).

Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian, SCRUB-SHRUB WETLAND
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cropland/hedgerow, Old field, Shrubland/chaparral, Suburban/orchard, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: Open woodlands, burnt over areas in forests, brushy areas, brushy subalpine meadows, willow thickets along streams or lakes, parks, farmland.

Nests on ground under cover of shrubs and ground vegetation, or in shrub or tree up to a few feet from ground.

Adult Food Habits: Granivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Granivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: Feeds primarily on seeds of grasses and weeds (ragweed, pigweed, goosefoot, panicum, etc.). Also feeds on invertebrates, especially in the summer (ants, caterpillars, true bugs, beetles, spiders and snails). Forages on ground.
Adult Phenology: Crepuscular, Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Crepuscular, Diurnal
Phenology Comments: Mostly inactive for several hours daily in continuous daylight at high latitude.
Length: 18 centimeters
Weight: 29 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Biological Research Needs: Factors contributing to observed population declines need to be identified. Research is needed on habitat use and the effects of habitat alteration as a result of grazing on species distribution. The degree of threat posed by brood parasitism needs to be determined. A better understanding of the natural history and distribution of the species during the nonbreeding season is needed.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Passerines

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Nest Site, Nesting Colony
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding, or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Mapping Guidance: Breeding occurrences include nesting areas as well as foraging areas.

For swallows and other species that have separate nesting and foraging areas, separations are based on nest sites or nesting areas, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap larger than the separation distance are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Mean foraging radius (from nesting area) of Brown-headed Cowbird females was 4.0 kilometers in California, 1.2 kilometers in Illinois-Missouri (Thompson 1994). Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Brewer's Blackbirds, and probably Red-winged Blackbirds all forage up to 1.6 kilometers away from breeding colony (Willson 1966, Horn 1968). In one study, Brewer's Blackbirds were found as far as 10 kilometers from nesting area (Williams 1952), but this may be unusual.

For swallows and other parrerines with similar behavioral ecology, separation distance pertains to nest sites or nesting colonies, not to locations of foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap of more than 5 km are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas. This separation procedure is appropriate because nesting areas are the critical aspect of swallow breeding occurrences, tend to be relatively stable or at least somwhat predictable in general location, and so are the basis for effective conservation; foraging areas are much more flexible and not necessarily static.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Migratory stopover
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: For most passerines: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating individuals (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 25 birds in appropriate habitat.

For swallows: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating flocks (including historical) and potential recurring presence at a given location; minimally a reliable observation of 100 birds in appropriate habitat (e.g., traditional roost sites).

Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 7 days annually.

EOs should not be described for species that are nomadic during nonbreeding season: e.g., Lark Bunting.

Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary but intended to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. Occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Foraging Area, Roost Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Any area used traditionally in the nonbreeding season (used for populations that are not resident in a location year-round). Minimally, reliable observations of 10 or more individuals in appropriate habitat for 20 or more days at a time. For G1-G3 species, observations of fewer individuals could constitute an occurrence of conservation value. Sites used during migration should be documented under the 'migratory stopover' location use class.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance is necessarily arbitrary but attempts to balance the high mobility of birds with the need for occurrences of reasonable spatial scope. Note that a population's roost sites and foraging areas are parts of the same occurrence, even if they are more than 5 km apart.

For swallows and other species with similar behavioral ecology, the separation distance pertains to communal roost sites rather than to foraging areas; the former tend to be more stable and specific over time than the latter.

Date: 03Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Nonmigratory
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a particular location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in or near appropriate habitat.

These occurrence specifications are used for nonmigratory populations of passerine birds.

Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among populations of birds separated by tens of kilometers (e.g., Moore and Dolbeer 1989), and increasing evidence that individuals leave their usual home range to engage in extrapair copulations, as well as long foraging excursions of some species, make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for songbirds and flycatchers; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Be careful not to separate a population's nesting areas and breeding-season foraging areas as different occurrences; include them in the same occurrence even if they are more than 5 km apart. Blue jays have small summer home ranges but fly up to 4 kilometers to harvest mast (Tarvin and Woolfenden 1999). Flocks of pinyon jays range over 21-29 square kilometers (Ligon 1971, Balda and Bateman 1971); nesting and foraging areas may be widely separated. Tricolored blackbirds forage in flocks that range widely to more than 15 kilometers from the nesting colony (Beedy and Hamilton 1999).

Unsuitable habitat: Habitat not normally used for breeding/feeding by a particular species. For example, unsuitable habitat for grassland and shrubland birds includes forest/woodland, urban/suburban, and aquatic habitats. Most habitats would be suitable for birds with versatile foraging habits (e.g., most corvids).

Date: 10Sep2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Notes: These specs pertain to nonmigratory species.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 11Jan2008
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Gotthardt, T.A., J. G. McClory, and G. Hammerson
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 31Aug1995
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): HAMMERSON, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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