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Two kinds of White Headed Sparrows in the Piedmont of NC (1 Viewer)

blues

Member
United States
From the Piedmont in NC. I'm confused about birds named "White headed sparrow" While the internet shows this bird with a black and white striped head, the bird at my feeder has a completely white head down through the nape and throat of its head. This is how Sibley pictures the white headed sparrow in his Birding Basics (p 83). As a novice I do not understand these differences. I have never seen the Sibley WHS at my feeder before this year.
 

Butty

Well-known member
I think I know what you mean by 'NC'... But for people who don't live there it's nice to have it spelt out - and the country too.
I'm not aware of any bird that, in any formal sense, is known as 'white-headed sparrow'. You may have meant white-crowned sparrow or white-throated sparrow?
If you have seen a sparrow-like bird with an entirely white head in Europe or N America, it's got some sort of aberrant plumage.
 
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Xenospiza

Distracted
Supporter
The Piedmont is in North Carolina.
And indeed, there is no "White-headed Sparrow", so please have a look in Sibley again and give us the correct name. That would be helpful for the answer.
The sparrows with the black-and-white striped head are White-crowned Sparrows.
 

nartreb

Speak softly and carry a long lens
Ahem. One of the Piedmonts crosses North Carolina and six other US states. The term simply means "foothill" (pied = foot, mont = mountain); the "original" Piedmont is a region of Italy.

Like the others I cannot think of a sparrow-sized bird with an all-white head that would be found in North Carolina. (Best I can do is a female white-breasted nuthatch, if seen from the front so the crown and nape are not really visible.)

Would love to know what's on page 83 of Birding Basics. Seems unlikely that Sibley would be depicting a leucistic bird.
 

Butty

Well-known member
If all you know of it is that it's a sparrowy (brown/streaky?) little thing with an entirely white head, then it's as likely (maybe more likely) to be an aberrant house sparrow as it is to be a sparrow species with 'white' in it's name. I fear you will need a photo in order to get an ID.
 

blues

Member
United States
Exactly! This is the bird at my feeder. Thanks, Deb. I also found a mistake in an internet post that misnamed a white crown sparrow as white headed. Bird ID is hard.
 

Butty

Well-known member
This is the bird at my feeder.
It would be more accurate to say that this looks like the bird at your feeder. I'm afraid that we still don't know what species yours is, as there are several species of sparrow - American sparrows and house sparrow - with body plumage that broadly resembles this one's.
 

blues

Member
United States
It would be more accurate to say that this looks like the bird at your feeder. I'm afraid that we still don't know what species yours is, as there are several species of sparrow - American sparrows and house sparrow - with body plumage that broadly resembles this one's.
One of my favorite books is:

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time​

Book by Jonathan Weiner

Demonstrates how species change within 5 years to adapt to changes in the environment.

The white headed sparrow, although I know of no charcoal grey sparrow, could be an genetic adaptation to climate change. Reports of this bird seen also in Charlotte NC about 150 miles away. A nice mystery for science to solve!
 

nartreb

Speak softly and carry a long lens
Seeing one individual that's different from all the others is pretty much the opposite of demonstrating "an adaptation to" anything.
 

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