Dec 15 2012

Speaking of Plumage

Published by at 7:30 am under Bird Anatomy,Songbirds

Speaking of plumage as I did yesterday...

Here's a bird in juvenile plumage.

If you didn't know that immature white-crowned sparrows are cream-and-brown colored, you'd have trouble identifying him.

Here's what his parents look like in basic plumage.

Quite a difference!


(photos by Marcy Cunkelman)

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Speaking of Plumage”

  1. Anne Marieon 15 Dec 2012 at 9:04 am


  2. Peteron 15 Dec 2012 at 9:13 am

    I just saw my first white-crowned sparrow on a trip to California this summer. One individual was making an absolute racket…maybe he wasn’t happy with us hiking near him. He came out along the trail in Marin Headlands and kept a close eye on us as we passed.

    Then I saw another in Chicago this fall. Have yet to see one anywhere around Pittsburgh. Would have never guessed these guys had this muted basic plummage – but now I know. 🙂 I’ve got enough trouble with the alternate breeding plummage I’ll stick to that for now!

  3. Kate St. Johnon 15 Dec 2012 at 9:35 am

    Peter, I might be misunderstanding your last two sentences … but the top, muted bird is in “juvenile” plumage, the bottom bird is in “basic.” The adults’ alternate (breeding season) plumage is “scarcely different from Definitive Basic, but upper surface somewhat lighter and grayer (less brown)” according to Cornell’s Birds of North America, online at

  4. Peteron 15 Dec 2012 at 9:55 am

    Whoops! Yes, I was confused. I was a few posts behind and was catching up this morning, so I’d just read the post on avocets and then got to this and remembered seeing my first one. I’d take a redo on that comment! Thanks for sorting everything back out.

  5. Marcy Con 15 Dec 2012 at 8:32 pm

    But the biggest secret with the White-crowned sparrows is their posture(like the top one)…. usually they are standing tall, and not leaning like the rest of the sparrows…that is how I can tell I have a WCSparrow…if you look closely to the stripes, there is another subspecies the stripes don’t go all the way to the beak…gambelii and the beak is pinker…just something more to confuse you or something more to learn, which I do everyday by observing…

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