Feb 26 2010
Here’s a conundrum: All birds have crowns but not every bird is crowned.
In bird anatomy the crown is the top of the head. All birds have one and it’s usually unremarkable. When the crown is pretty or a different color the bird is often named for it. Thus the white-crowned sparrow pictured here.
I usually see white-crowned sparrows from the side or below with little opportunity to examine their crowns, so this picture is a rare treat. Notice how the edges of his crown are jagged. If they were straight the white patch would probably be called a stripe. The elaborate crown camouflages this bird in dappled sunlight and he raises it to claim territory. Pretty cool.
Surprisingly there are not many “crowned” birds in North America and even fewer in southwestern Pennsylvania. Here you’re likely to see only these:
- Black-crowned night-heron
- Ruby-crowned kinglet
- Golden-crowned kinglet
- Orange-crowned warbler
- White-crowned sparrow
And of those listed above, you’ll be lucky to see the crowns on the kinglets and warbler. They only raise it when they’re excited.
(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)