April in northern Utah is a good time to see and photograph molting immature White-crowned Sparrows. This image shows a side view of an immature White-crowned Sparrow photographed on Antelope Island State Park six days ago. To the untrained eye it might look like any other immature White-crowned Sparrow but there are subtle differences between it and an immature White-crowned Sparrow in its first winter.
This is a side view of an immature White-crowned Sparrow during its first winter, it was also photographed on Antelope Island State Park while perched on a rabbitbrush in January.
This portrait was taken six days ago on Antelope Island State Park and I have pointed out some of the changes that are happening because this immature White-crowned is going through molt. The stripe above the eye is molting from a pale buff color to white, the brown feathers of the crown and the stripe behind the eye (postocular) are molting to black and the buffy cheeks are molting to feathers that are more gray that buff.
I’ve posted this first winter immature White-crowned Sparrow close up image before that was taken at the end of November of 2015 but I wanted to add it so it can be compared to the portrait of the molting sparrow above.
The images above that show the immature White-crowned Sparrows in molt didn’t show the crown well and since their crown is what gives White-crowned Sparrows their name I wanted to include an image taken last week that showed the crown molting to white feathers.
I don’t think this post would be complete without being able to compare the immature White-crowned Sparrows to the adults. This adult White-crowned was photographed the end of February on the island as it fed on the ground.
This adult was photographed on the same day as the molting immature White-crowned Sparrows were and in the same location. Some of its feathers look a bit worn to my eye and the adults may go through molt now too.
I didn’t use the language of experts in the field like Peter Pyle because I am not an expert. I’m just a bird photographer who notices many things while having a great time following my passion. That said I believe these individuals are going through what is called Prealternate I molt partial which involves head, chin, wing-coverts along with some body feathers. Please correct me if I am wrong.
Being able to observe and photograph these sparrows and other birds growing and changing through the seasons is what I consider a wonderful and educational gift. One that I truly appreciate.
Life is good.
* The images where I have includes lines and text can be seen in my White-crowned Sparrow gallery without the markings