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November 20, 2012
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COLLINS: You can't miss a White-crowned Sparrow

A: In an attempt not to repeat myself, I will just mention a few traits that are unique to the White-crowned Sparrow.White-crowned Sparrows show loyalty to their winter territories and are likely to return to the same areas each year. They have been known to migrate over 2,600 miles from Alaska to California. While migrating north in the spring, their average travel distance is about 70 miles per day.Male White-crowned Sparrows can actually be bilingual, learning and using distinct song dialects from their home territory as well as a bordering one.During the winter, a White-crowned Sparrow's body needs to maintain about 3 grams of fat most of which will be used up during the night and must be replaced everyday.Through the analysis of bird-banding records, the average lifespan of a White-crowned Sparrow is thought to be around 16 months with the longest known lifespan just over 13 years.

A Bushtit is a very small, non-descript, friendly bird which usually travels in flocks.They travel together in flocks of up to 40 individuals in late summer, fall, winter and early spring. They have been recorded in flocks up to 100 during the summer. When threatened by a predator, the entire flock of Bushtits immediately begins a droning trill that makes it difficult for the predator to distinguish the location of any single member of the flock.The Bushtit is the only species of long-tailed tit in North America. They are remarkable in the fact that they are one of the smallest birds found in North America and about half their four-inch length is made up of a long tail!The one-foot-long hanging nest of a Bushtit resembles an Oriole's nest and is woven out of a variety of materials including mosses, lichens, leaves and spider's webs. Adult Bushtits with active nests can be identified by their frayed and bent tail-feathers.Bushtits constantly chatter as they travel around bushes and trees in small social groups. While foraging for insects, Bushtits stretch and reach in all sorts of odd positions, often upside down in the manner of chickadees.Bushtits cope with the cold temperatures while roosting at night by closely huddling together in large groups. They also construct heavily insulated nests to protect their nestlings from the cold.Look into a Bushtit's eyes to tell if it is a male or female. In an adult female the iris is light (cream, yellow, or white) and in the males it is black.The typical call of the Bushtit is very soft and bell-like. They do not have a song. Bushtits are very tame and fearless of humans. They will stay close to your feeder while you are filling it. Bushtits have such a small body-weight-to-size ratio (average weight is 5.5 grams) that it results in a high rate of body heat loss. During the winter, individuals need to eat about 80% of their weight per day to avoid losing weight.Local bird expert Larry Collins owns Wild Birds Unlimited, 2454 Hwy. 6&50, which caters to folks who want the best backyard birdfeeding experience possible. Email your birdfeeding and birding questions to and he'll answer them in his bi-weekly Q&A column in the Free Press.

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The Post Independent Updated Nov 20, 2012 02:33PM Published Nov 20, 2012 02:31PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.