Developing an Ear for Backyard Birds

White-throated sparrow and Carolina Chickadee. Images:  National Audubon Society.

White-throated sparrow and Carolina Chickadee. Images: National Audubon Society.

This is Passport to Texas

It’s not uncommon to find the white-throated sparrow and Carolina chickadee in backyards throughout Texas.

Most Texans have these – especially in the eastern two-thirds of the state

Cliff Shackelford, nongame ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, says these birds are whistlers.

They have very clear, clean whistles. Sometimes you might even think it’s the neighbor whistling – but it’s a little bird!

If whistling like this comes from ground level, it’s likely the white-throated sparrow.

If it’s a little higher up– maybe up in the trees – it’s probably the Carolina chickadee. We get a lot of phone calls from people saying: what is this bird with that has this crystal clear whistle in my backyard? And it’s probably going to be one or the other – either the chickadee or the sparrow.

The chickadee is finch-sized with a gray body, white underside and black and white head. The sparrow is plump with a black and white head, white throat, gray underside and little yellow eyebrows.

You can hear the chickadee whistling year-round, but the white throated sparrow leaves for southern Canada where it’s nice and cool in the summer while we’re here melting in the summer months.

Learn more about Birds in Texas on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife restoration program supports our series and funds wildlife surveys throughout Texas.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

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