Wild Birds Unlimited Newsletter
~ For those passionate about birding and nature ~
Dec 1st, 2016                                                                                              Volume 12.16
Nature News

High Desert Bird of the Month
White-crowned Sparrow
  White-crowned Sparrow
BOM:  White-crowned Sparrow
Scientific name: Zonotrichia leucophrys 
How to identify: 
White-crowns are a large sparrow with a long tail.  They are easy to identify with the crisp black and which crown stripes of the adults and their pink or yellow bill.  First winter (immature) birds sport buff and brown head stripes.  White-crowned sparrows are one of the few birds you will hear singing in the winter; the song is described as a series of clear whistles followed by buzzy notes.  Female birds will sometimes sing, also. This bird spends the summer on tundra or in boreal forests of Canada and Alaska.  During summer they supplement a seed diet with insects, grains and fruit.
Another winter resident is the Golden-crowned Sparrow.  In summer Golden-crowns have a black crown with a fiery gold forehead.  In winter, when we are more likely to see them, their colors are more muted, with a brown head and paler yellow on the crown.
White-crowned Sparrows breed in open or shrubby habitats, including tundra, high alpine meadows, and forest edges. Patches of bare ground and grasses are important characteristics. During winter and on migration these birds frequent thickets, weedy fields, agricultural fields, roadsides, and backyards.
Where to find one:
White-crowned Sparrows appear each winter over much of North America to grace our gardens and favorite trails (they live in parts of the West year-round). The smart black-and-white head, pale beak, and crisp gray breast combine for a dashing look - and make it one of the surest sparrow identifications in North America. Watch for flocks of these sparrows scurrying through brushy borders and overgrown fields, or coax them into the open with backyard feeders. As spring approaches, listen out for this bird's thin, sweet whistle.
How to attract one to your yard:  
White-crowned Sparrows come to feeders for sunflower and other kinds of seeds - though they may be more likely to stay on the ground eating seeds dropped by other birds. Making a brush pile in your yard is another good way to encourage this species to spend more time in your yard
Interesting fact:
A young male White-crowned Sparrow learns the basics of the song it will sing as an adult during the first two or three months of its life. It does not learn directly from its father, but rather from the generalized song environment of its natal neighborhood.
For more information on White Crowned Sparrows, visit one of the three Moana Nursery store locations:  1100 W. Moana Ln. & 11301 S. Virginia St., Reno and 7644 Pyramid Hwy., Sparks. 
Carmel Ruiz-Hilton is Manager of Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shops at Moana Nursery in Reno/Sparks

Go to the WBU site for more Bird of the Month newsletters & articles. 

Specialty Gift Items Have Arrived!

Rascal Raccoon and Peanut the Squirrel Seed Cylinders

Hand Crafted Bird Houses by Enzo Generali

Woven Nesting Huts and Seed Blend Cylinders & Wreaths

Bird, Owl and Raptor Houses
And much much more!!

How Cool Is That?

Warm Down Coat
Ever wonder how we a came up with the idea for down coats? Watch a bird in winter. When they puff up their feathers they are trapping air for insulation. For example, chickadees can create a buffer of more than 70°F (21°C) from the cold winter air and their skin.

Morse Code Bird
Have you ever listened to a Junco's "tew-tew-tew" call? It sounds like they are talking in morse code to each other.

Songs of the Season

Besides holiday music, "Who's awake? Me too!" can be heard from the country to suburbia. Great Horned Owls are pairing this month. Listen for their soft call after dark.

White-crowned Sparrow
Fun Facts About White-crowned Sparrows

White-crowned Sparrows show loyalty to their winter territories and are likely to return to the same areas each year.

Male White-crowned Sparrows can actually be bilingual, learning and using distinct song dialects from their home territory and a bordering one.

White-crowned Sparrows have been known to migrate over 2600 miles from Alaska to California. While migrating north in the spring, their average travel distance is about 70 miles per day.

During the winter, a White-crowned Sparrow's body contains about 3 grams of fat of which ½ is used up at night and must be replaced everyday.

Through the analysis of bird banding records, the average life span of a White-crowned Sparrow is thought to be around 16 months while the longest known lifespan was just over 13 years.

Upcoming Events
Lahontan Audubon Society

Saturday, December 3
 Silver Saddle Ranch Holiday Open House
Tuesday, December 6
 LAS Board Meeting
Wednesday, December 14
 Christmas Bird Count - Snake Valley, Baker, NV
Thursday, December 15
 Christmas Bird Count - Ely, NV
Friday, December 16
 Christmas Bird Count - Fallon
Saturday, December 17
 Christmas Bird Count - Elko/Sping Creek
 Christmas Bird Count - American Valley, CA
 Christmas Bird Count - Truckee Meadows
 Christmas Bird Count - South Lake Tahoe
Sunday, December 18
 Christmas Bird Count - Carson City
Saturday, December 31
Christmas Bird Count - Minden

Nature Happenings
* Project FeederWatch continues, www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw
* Christmas Bird Count is this month, birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count
* December is our second snowiest month, though dreams of a White Christmas are a 1 in 20 shot.
* Watch for Bald Eagles along the rivers.
* Keep water open for birds with a bird bath and heater.
* Rather than search for worms in the frozen soil, large winter flocks of robins will visit fruit trees for food.
* Cedar Waxwings will visit yards in search of fruit, often staying for hours before moving on.
* Juncos will hunt for fallen seed, often before dawn.
* The smaller the bird, the earlier its hunt for food in the winter darkness.
* In preparation of the earliest nesting period of any bird (late-January through February), Great Horned Owls can be heard hooting at night in courtship.
* Now through late March is a difficult time for birds; providing food and an open source of water is important.
* Winter is a great time to look for birds' nests. Admire the craftsmanship, but leave the nest in place.
* Great Horned Owls are pairing up this month - listen for their "who" calls.
* This is a great time to teach chickadees and titmice to feed from your hand
* Decorate a tree for the birds. Pick a tree in the yard and decorate it with edible ornaments for your feathered friends.
* Meadow Voles and Deer Mice disappear into tunnels under a blanket of snow.
* Geminid Meteor Shower is mid-month.open source of water is important. 

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Moana Nursery | 1100 W. Moana Lane | 11301 S. Virginia St. | 7655 Pyramid Hwy. | Reno/Sparks | NV | 89509