Immature White-crowned Sparrow molting to adult plumage

Snowy day juvenile White-crowned SparrowSnowy day juvenile White-crowned Sparrow – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

My post today is an image of an immature White-crowned Sparrow molting into adult plumage and two images showing a juvenile and an adult for comparison.

I’ll start with the juvenile, or first winter, White-crowned Sparrow photographed at Farmington Bay WMA in the winter of 2010. The juveniles look very different in plumage compared to the adults but they have the same basic shape, behaviors and posture. Their back pattern is duller than seen on adults, their wing bars are less defined, their eye-line and lateral crown-stripe is brown and their supercilium is a dull gray-brown.

During the winter I see lots of juvenile White-crowned Sparrows virtually every where I go to photograph birds in northern Utah.

Immature White-crowned Sparrow molting to adult plumageImmature White-crowned Sparrow molting to adult plumage – Nikon D810, f10, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

This image of an immature White-crowned Sparrow molting was taken in April of this year on Antelope Island State Park. The back pattern on this immature sparrow is more defined and crisper than the first winter individual in the first image, there are new tail feathers filling in and the plumage pattern on the head of this bird is very different than the first winter bird. The supercilium is getting brighter, the lateral crown-stripe has some blackish feathers and the eye-line is changing from brown to black even though in this image it looks like it has disappeared there are a few darker feathers there.

Adult White-crowned Sparrow at Lee Kay PondsAdult White-crowned Sparrow at Lee Kay Ponds – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 500, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

This final image shows an adult White-crowned Sparrow taken in January of 2014 at Lee Kay Ponds in Salt Lake County.  The lateral crown-stripe and eye-line are black, the supercilium is a dull white though on some individuals it can be brighter than shown here.

I’m happy that I was able to take the image of the immature White-crowned Sparrow molting because for me it kind of fills in the  age gap between the first winter White-crowned Sparrow images I have and those of the adults.

Life is good. Birds make it more interesting.



  1. Utahbooklover November 22, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    Nice images and helpful information on these beautiful sparrows, one of my favs.

  2. Elephant's Child November 16, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Subtle beauty. At all ages.

  3. Patty Chadwick November 16, 2015 at 10:09 am

    I love these little White-crowned and white-throated sparrows. We see them mostly in the Winter, almost as “tame” as the Titmice and the Chickadees, the tamest of them all…

  4. Bob Mcpherson November 16, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Beautiful images, Mia. Makes the little sparrows more important.

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