Molting Immature White-crowned Sparrows

/, Birds, Davis County, Utah, White-crowned Sparrows/Molting Immature White-crowned Sparrows

Molting immature White-crowned Sparrow side viewMolting immature White-crowned Sparrow side view – Nikon D810, f8, 1/2000, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

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.

Juvenile White-crowned Sparrow first winterJuvenile White-crowned Sparrow first winter – Nikon D810, f11, 1/400, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

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.

Portrait showing molt in an immature White-crowned SparrowPortrait showing molt in an immature White-crowned Sparrow – Nikon D810, f8, 1/2000, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

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.

Immature White-crowned Sparrow First Winter Close UpImmature White-crowned Sparrow First Winter Close Up – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

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.

White-crowned Sparrow immature showing molting feathersWhite-crowned Sparrow immature showing molting feathers – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

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.

Adult White-crowned Sparrow feeding on the groundAdult White-crowned Sparrow feeding on the ground in February – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

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.

Adult White-crowned Sparrow in AprilAdult White-crowned Sparrow in April – Nikon D810, f8, 1/2000, ISO 320, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

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.

Mia

* The images where I have includes lines and text can be seen in my White-crowned Sparrow gallery without the markings

9 Comments

  1. Kathryn Duchene April 13, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Beautiful! And thank you for the white crowned sparrow lessons

  2. Elephant's Child April 13, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Thank you for the education. I do like the subtle charm of the LBJs.

  3. Utahbooklover April 13, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Makes me appreciate more what I’m seeing without pulling out the books. Thanks!

  4. Patty Chadwick April 13, 2016 at 10:22 am

    It’s always fun to see images of these cute little LBJ’s as Ellie Baby calls them.not flashy, but awfully cute…and interesting to see how their plumage changes as they mature…I like how you’ve pointed out the changes in specific areas…thanks for doing that.

  5. John sherrill April 13, 2016 at 9:10 am

    Well done! Thanks for the excellent demonstrations. John

  6. Corine April 13, 2016 at 7:04 am

    Hi Mia,
    Thx so much for that info. I’ve been feeding these black crowned sparrows all winter but have not been looking for the immature ones. I’m an amateur bird-watcher and your pictures and descriptions are very helpful. Thx again!

  7. Bob McPherson April 13, 2016 at 6:49 am

    Beautiful photos Mia.

  8. pennypinchadventure Tim Traver April 13, 2016 at 6:49 am

    Nice lesson Mia, thanks! We don’t get a lot of white-crowned sparrows back east but a few reliably show up during spring and fall migrations.

  9. Liz Cormack April 13, 2016 at 6:28 am

    We have an immature white-crowned sparrow at the feeder now. I will have to watch for it molting with Canada being a few weeks behind.
    Beautiful photos.

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