On a sunny June day Fish and Game biologists are working in the wetlands near Anchorage. They are surveying shorebirds like lesser yellowlegs, and while they are successful in that endeavor, they are impressed by an abundance of one species of songbird here brightening their days with its song - the white crowned sparrow.
A white crowned sparrow is easy to identify, sporting bold, black and white stripes on its head like a racing helmet. It has a relatively long tail for a sparrow. White-crowned sparrows range from the Southeast rainforest to the southern edge of the Brooks Range in summer, they are found across northern Canada as well, although they are primarily a western bird. They tend to stay close to the ground, foraging on the ground or in low shrubs. They also tend to nest on the ground or tucked into low shrubs and trees. In late summer, white crowned sparrows leave Alaska and migrate south to spend winters in the Southern US. Members of Alaska's white-crowned sparrow population have been tracked migrating close to 2,600 miles to winter in Southern California, and some travel all the way to Mexico.