Royal Visit

Golden-crowned Sparrow at Wiley Slough

I was on Fir Island last week hiking along the Spur Dike Trail at Wiley Slough.  This is always a good place for bird watching, but it was unusually quiet on this morning.  Sub-freezing temperatures may have been responsible for that.

Along the edge of the dike, I did encounter a small group of Golden-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia atricapilla) foraging on the frost-covered ground.  There were five altogether, busily scratching in the grass.  Such a group of Golden-crowneds is called a "reign."  I guess this helps them maintain a regal bearing.  They appeared to be eating seeds and other bits of vegetation.  They also eat shoots, berries, flowers, buds and insects, according to iBird Pro.  In my yard, they are attracted to feeders containing suet or safflower seed.

BirdCam Photo, South Fidalgo Island

I also caught a Golden-crowned Sparrow at BirdCam One in my yard last week.  They winter in a strip from Vancouver Island, down western Washington, Oregon and California.

The photo above provides an interesting comparison between a BirdCam JPEG and the raw photos from my dSLR.  I am just now learning to process photos shot in the raw format.  I think it has obvious advantages.

Their breeding grounds include Alaska, the Yukon Territory and British Columbia.  They nest in a hollow dug in the ground, well-hidden in vegetation.  Males and females are similar.  In the breeding season, they have a large, prominent black cap to the eye line surrounding the bright yellow crown.  Cheeks and breast are gray.  During the winter, as you can see, the black cap becomes less distinct and the breast and cheeks become light brown.

Deception Pass State Park in another place to spot wintering Golden-crowned Sparrows.  They don't seem to be abundant in this area, so I always feel lucky when I see them.  The Spur Dike Trail is located at the Skagit Wildlife Area Headquarters Unit.  Visitors should remember to bring their Discover Pass and display it in their vehicles.


  1. Cute little bird. Quite a difference in the shots between the birdcam and your camera. One of my goals for this year is to become a better birder. I'm sort of haphazard. We'll see. Here's to lots of great bird shots in the year ahead.

  2. Hello Jill. Thanks so much for being such a loyal visitor. Much appreciated. Is "haphazard" not not an integral element of birding? You schlep around and maybe, there he is. Or maybe not.

  3. Thank you


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