How to Identify a White-Throated Sparrow

Learn all about the white throated sparrow. Our birding experts reveal what these sparrows look like, sound like and what they eat.

What Does a White-Throated Sparrow Look Like?

white throated sparrowCourtesy Olivia Gallagher

Clues to this bird’s identity include the small white throat patch, the yellow in front of the eye, and the rich reddish-brown on the shoulder and wing. Some white-throated sparrows have bold stripes of white and black on the head. Others have stripes of tan and dark brown. People used to think that the tan-striped birds were young ones. But that’s not necessarily true. About half of all adult white-throated sparrows, both males and females, are tan-striped for life.

White-throated sparrows measure 6-3/4 inches with a wingspan of 9 inches. When identifying sparrows, take note of face pattern, any streaking on the belly, and habitat.

Next, learn how to identify and attract chipping sparrows.

White-Throated Sparrow Song

White Throated SparrowCourtesy Nancy Tully
The white-throated sparrow has a distinctive song.

While some birders hear the white throated sparrow calling Oh sweet Canada Canada Canada, others think it sounds more like Old Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody.

Bird songs provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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Nest and Eggs

This sparrow builds a nest from fine materials on or near the ground; the female lays up to six blue to green eggs with reddish-brown specks.

Discover fascinating sparrow facts you should know.

Food and Diet

Roland Jordahl

Attract these birds by offering nyjer thistle seed, cracked corn, white proso millet, black oil sunflower seed and hulled sunflower seed in your bird feeders. They also eat weed seeds, fruits, buds and insects.

Learn how to feed and attract native sparrows.

White-Throated Sparrow Range Map and Habitat

White throated sparrow rests on branch.Courtesy Susan Prewitt

These birds are common in gardens, residential areas, woodlands and clearings. White-throated sparrows are commonly seen in the East, but are much less common in the West.

White-throated Sparrow Bird Species

Range maps provided by Kaufman Field Guides, the official field guide of Birds & Blooms.

Next, discover cool facts about dark-eyed juncos.

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman
Kenn and Kimberly are the official Birds & Blooms bird experts. They are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. They speak and lead bird trips all over the world. When they're not traveling, they enjoy watching birds and other wildlife in their Northwest Ohio backyard. Fascinated with the natural world since the age of 6, Kenn has traveled to observe birds on all seven continents, and has authored or coauthored 14 books about birds and nature, including include seven titles in his own series, Kaufman Field Guides, designed to encourage beginners by making the first steps in nature study as easy as possible. His next book, The Birds That Audubon Missed, is scheduled to be published by Simon & Schuster in May 2024. Kenn is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society, and has received the American Birding Association’s lifetime achievement award twice. Kimberly is the Executive Director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) in northwest Ohio. She became the Education Director in 2005 and Executive Director in 2009. As the Education Director, Kimberly played a key role in building BSBO’s school programs, as well as the highly successful Ohio Young Birders Club, a group for teenagers that has served as a model for youth birding programs. Kimberly is also the co-founder of The Biggest Week In American Birding, the largest birding festival in the U.S. Under Kimberly’s leadership, BSBO developed a birding tourism season in northwest Ohio that brings an annual economic impact of more than $40 million to the local economy. She is a contributing editor to Birds & Blooms Magazine, and coauthor of the Kaufman Field Guides to Nature of New England and Nature of the Midwest. Accolades to her credit include the Chandler Robbins Award, given by the American Birding Association to an individual who has made significant contributions to education and/or bird conservation. In 2017, she received a prestigious Milestone Award from the Toledo Area YWCA. Kimberly serves on the boards of Shores and Islands Ohio and the American Bird Conservancy.