Monday 3 November 2014

White-crowned Sparrow x Golden-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow x Golden-crowned Sparrow hybrid, Nordlund, Jefferson County (Washington, USA), 2nd February 2011 - copyright Steve Mlodinow
(photo ID: 1458)

The Golden-crowned Sparrow influence in this bird is pretty obvious, even to me.  But I'll leave it to Steve to explain the White-crowned:
"Note the black extending back from eye, wrapping around posterior whitish supercilium and then starting forward again along superior border of supercilium.  This feature is only seen in White-crowned Sparrow among Zonotrichia.  Also, the pale back streaks are grayer than seen in Golden-crowned Sparrow, and the underparts at the pallid/dull extreme for that species."

 White-crowned Sparrow x Golden-crowned Sparrow hybrid (same bird as in photo ID 1458 above), Nordlund, Jefferson County (Washington, USA), 2nd February 2011 - copyright Steve Mlodinow
(photo IDs: 1459-1460)

The next bird is similar in showing a broad supercilium with a dark lower border extending back to connect with the lateral crown stripe.  Steve also notes the all pink bill and tells us that the bird was intermediate in size between the two parent species.

 White-crowned Sparrow x Golden-crowned Sparrow hybrid, Monroe, Snohomish County (Washington, USA), November 2005 - copyright Steve Mlodinow
(photo ID: 1499)

The next bird looks very similar to White-crowed Sparrow except for the yellow on the forecrown and above the eye.

White-crowned Sparrow x Golden-crowned Sparrow hybrid, Potter Valley (California, USA), 10th January 2011 - copyright Matt Brady
(photo IDs: 2113-2114)

Steve tells us this hybrid is found nearly annually in Washington.

 White-crowned Sparrow x Golden-crowned Sparrow hybrid, Brady Loop Road, Grays Harbor County (Washington, USA), 22nd October 2015 - copyright Steve Mlodinow
(photo IDs: 2295-2296)

White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
Golden-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla


  1. Here is a bird I photographed in Cesar Chavez Park in Berkeley CA on April 7 2015. Could this be a Golden/White hybrid?

  2. Hi Martin - thanks for the comment. I think your bird is a pure Golden-crowned Sparrow in full breeding plumage. So far as I am aware the white central/rear crown and black sides of the crown are normal for Golden-crowned Sparrow in full breeding plumage - though I guess they're often seen in duller attire where the white is dirty and the black has brown admixed. If you do an image search for Golden-crowned Sparrows you will find several like yours. In your comments on your blog you refer to other photos of hybrids which you suggest are very like yours, however I think there are some significant differences. Most notably on the two that are closest to yours, birds apparently in full breeding plumage, they not only have black at the sides of the crown but they also show clear white stripes above and behind the eye, a feature found on White-crowned Sparrow but not present on your bird. On yours there is just a trace of a white behind the eye, a remnant of non-breeding plumage that can often be seen on Golden-crowned Sparrows at this stage.

  3. I found this Golden- x White-crowned Sparrow hybrid in our migrating flock of White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows this spring in Mansfield, Washington. It stayed from 5/4/2017 to 5/7/2017. I found it interesting that the hybrid only associated with Golden-crowned Sparrows, and was being constantly chased by White-crowneds during its stay (what makes it especially strange is the fact that the pure Golden-crowneds were dominant over the pure White-crowneds). Here's a decent photo of the bird that you can use; taken on 5/5/2017.

    -Shey Claflin

    1. Thanks Shey, that's great. I'll add this next time I do a batch of updates. (Sorry to have taken so long to respond)