Adult And Juvenile White Crowned Sparrows

Plus some heartfelt nostalgia and a method for dealing with comment typos on Feathered Photography.


1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed both of these birds four days ago within just a few feet of the entrance gate to Farmington Bay WMA. It was a melancholy experience for reasons I’ll explain shortly.

White-crowned Sparrows seem to have messy bills more often than any other species I regularly photograph and this juvenile was no exception. As close as I was to the bird and with this angled pose I don’t believe I could have had enough depth of field to get the entire bird sharp no matter my camera settings but I do like the look back from the sparrow and the curve of the thorny perch.



1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Only moments before the previous photo was taken I photographed this adult White-crowned Sparrow on a fence near the rose bushes. The differences between adults and juveniles of this species are quite dramatic and many novices don’t even recognize them as the same species. Here the deeply shaded black background provides a stark contrast to both bird and perch that likely will have limited appeal but it’s different enough that I actually like it, though I can’t really explain why (and no, the poop doesn’t bother me.)


Both of these birds were photographed in the front yard of our dear friends Ron and Carol whose home and property borders the north boundary of Farmington Bay WMA. For more than a decade now photographing birds in their tree-filled yard as I leave the refuge on my way home has been an ending ritual of the morning. I’m still in my vehicle without leaving the road and sometimes the back half of my pickup is still on refuge property when I do it. There’s often many more birds in Ron and Carol’s yard than I’ve seen all morning on the entire refuge.

Ron and Carol have been intimately associated with the refuge for as long as I remember. For many years it was Ron who opened the gates to Farmington each morning and we could always find out the latest bird and refuge news by visiting with them. They’re a delight to talk to, they’re passionate advocates and defenders of birds, wildlife and nature in general and Mia and I have become very good friends with them over the years.

But sadly all that has come to an end. These two White-crowned Sparrow photos were taken within days after Ron and Carol pulled up stakes and moved to New Mexico for their retirement so their normally cheery home sits lonely and empty. There’ll be no more delightful conversations or serendipitous encounters with them on their regular morning walks and we’re missing them already. Our loss is New Mexico’s gain.

The older I get the less flexible I am in adapting to change and this time is no exception.


An important note for regular readers of Feathered Photography:

All of us make typos when commenting on my blog but I have the advantage of being able to fix mine. You don’t. Typos come with the territory in the digital world and often they’re innocuous and no big deal but some of us are more tolerant of our own typos than others and occasionally they can be downright embarrassing. I can’t tell you how many times someone has meant to type “shot” (meaning a photograph or the firing of a gun) and typed “shit” instead. That word is an often used component of my vocabulary but I try to be judicious about when and where I use it and I’m sure many of my readers feel and do the same. But once you click on “Post Comment” typos are out there for the world to see and you can’t edit them from your end.

Recently a long time blog follower made a one letter typo that transformed an innocent word into a racial/ethnic slur. That person called it to my attention so I fixed it from my end but normally that’s something I’m hesitant to do without being asked because I don’t want to inadvertently misinterpret what was meant. That incident was the catalyst for this note.

So if you’d like me to fix a typo just ask and I’ll do it at the first opportunity but please be specific about what you want it to say. If you have my email address you can ask that way (I don’t provide that address publicly for reasons related to spam and security), otherwise just ask in a second comment and I’ll edit the typo and delete the additional comment. If you don’t ask I’m unlikely to fix it.



37 comments to Adult And Juvenile White Crowned Sparrows

  • Gary W Wilson

    Hi Ron,
    Another excellent blog. Auto-correct is the bane of our lives and so often Microsoft seems to think it is more intelligent than you are. Those of us in countries which use British (read Australia, New Zealand) English, particularly hate it, and the fact it at some undetermined time it will change the default from British to US English. It drives my graduate students mad! My personal beef is the habit of spelling the SI unit of measurement, the metre (legally spelled this way in this and most countries) as meter – causes enormous confusion.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Alice Beckcom

    Ron, I like the photos of the sparrows and have to admit that I take them for granted when they visit our back yard. It appears that the colors on the juvenile are more brilliant but it might be the ‘pose’ of the adult….not sure.

    As far as typos, it is easy to make them and if I make one that is innocent but the typo puts a negative spin on it, please feel free to correct it.

    I usually read my reply before posting the comment, but laziness can make mistakes happen.

    Thank you for the photos and conversation about typos, Ron.

  • April Olson

    Beautiful photos what was the background on the white crowned sparrow? I have noticed some birds could careless what is on their bills and other birds are driven nuts by the most minute debris on their bill and go through intense bill wiping that sounds like a mini saber being sharpened.

    You and Mia should buy the property, think how nice to live on a wetland, unless the mosquitoes are too daunting.

    Lastly, thank you for fixing my many typos between fat finger syndrome and auto, auto correct some of my mistakes have been doozies.

    • April, the background for the adult was deep shade and I can’t remember what it was for the juvie. It might have been the roof of their house.

      We actually talked about buying that house, not very seriously though.

  • Kathy G

    Ron…Terrific photos! I too have noticed the ‘messy beak’ syndrome…some seem apologetic about it and others look at you as if to say ‘deal with it!’

  • Mikal Deese

    Delighted to welcome Ron and Carol to New Mexico! Hoping they are settling somewhere near the center of the state, so I’ll be able to welcome them in person sometime soon!

  • Marina schultz

    Thank you just learned something else

  • Dick Harlow

    Great shots Ron, one of my favorite sparrows!
    I think part of the problem is that we don’t actually read every word in a sentence. I’m sure you have seen those sentences that are missing letters, but you know what they meant. I think we identify what we are going to say faster than we type and thus we think we’ve put the letter in, but in fact have not. Consequently the typos. Just my 2 cents.

  • Marty K

    Lovely shots. I especially like the second one with the dark background. I’m sorry your good friends left, but hopeful that some new ones will move into the house.

    As far as mistakes go, I had a biology prof during my credential program who said, “If you’re going to be wrong, be wrong loud.” 😉

  • Wonderful images, as always, Ron. Perhaps you can explain something I’ve noticed over the years. Why is it so much easier to catch typos after hitting the SEND button than it is before? I hardly ever send an email without judicious proofing. But, on more occasions than I care to admit, I almost immediately notice my errors after seeing them posted for all to see! Surely, someone has coined a humorous rule or law for this.

    • That’s a good question, Ron. There have even been times when I’ve noticed my typo after hitting the send button but before the page has reloaded so I can still see it but it’s too late. Something similar happens when I’m composing a blog post and hit the publish button when I meant to hit the “save post” button. I absolutely hate to do that!

    • Patty Chadwick

      Ron Thill–I’m convinced there aren’t any typos BEFORE you hit “send”–but that they happen AFTER you hit it….computers, ipads, smart phones, electronics in general, all HATE Humans and do their best to frustrate, embarrass and humiliate us…they are not only sneaky but very good at it….(there can be no other logical explanation)….

  • Patty Chadwick

    Two very nice nice shots of one of my favorites…I would not have recognized the juvenile as the same species…I’ve probably seen them many times and not recognized thrm…I did notice how close to that sharp thorn it was perched. I’m sorry that your friends pulled up stakes and moved away, and hope some new friends move in…it’s hard to lose friends at any age,but gets even harder as we get a bit older. Coincidentally, I just reconnected (only yesterday)with an old friend, Michael Wright,(our son is named after him), a VERY successful artist,who I found living in Santa Fe! Ironically, he was living there when I was driving around exploring the area and I didn’t even know it! The light there is wonderful and the sky can be such an intense, sweet blue it almost hurts to look at….I hope you get to visit, with camera, of course….

  • Judy Eberspaecher

    Excellent shots (yes, shots!) as usual.
    If you could see my replies before I edit you would be appalled! My arthritic fingers don’t always do as my brain tells them! Ha!

  • Diana

    Ron, I was one of the people who has misidentified juvie white crowned sparrows. Thanks for the clarification. Of course raptors are more my thing but no excuse for not knowing about the delightful sparrows who frequent our back yard feeders to delight us. No bird poop doesn’t bother me and it is more natural than posts and barbed wire.

  • I’m sorry for your loss of regular contact with those very fine sounding friends…….as we grow older, it becomes clear that we will be VERY fortunate to acquire new friends of anything like
    that closeness ; I’m happy for you that you had them for so long…….here’s hoping that you will be able to visit them in New Mexico, which is TRULY the “Land of Enchantment” ( it’s not just
    a chamber of commerce slogan ! ) The color harmony in image #1 is absolutely gorgeous……..

  • Judy Gusick

    Nice shots of the sparrows, Ron – they certainly come in infinite variety which, being so common, isn’t always noticed – I’m certainly better at noting that now than I used to be! 😉 “Change” does become more challenging the older I get also, particularly “change” like your friends leaving. 🙁 Typo’s DO happen for sure and glad you’re willing to correct ones that are a potential problem as in something ending up as a slur of some sorts!

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