For the past several days, a dozen fox sparrows have joined the common redpolls, dark-eyed juncos, black-capped chickadees, song sparrows, blue jays, mourning doves, and common grackles at my bird feeding site. Larger than song sparrows, these fox sparrows have a striking rusty-red plumage streaked with grey. The males’ song is a bright, bubbling melody.
Fox sparrows breed in western and northern North America, and their plumage varies in colour with their geographic location. Some birds are the rusty-red of the sparrows in my yard, while others are brown or grey. During the breeding season, fox sparrows typically inhabit dense scrub and thickets. They feed close to the ground, consuming insects, seeds, buds, and berries.(1) I’ve seen male fox sparrows singing territorial defence songs on the island of Newfoundland and in Alaska. And each spring, fox sparrows pass through northern Nova Scotia, en route to their breeding grounds. A male or two belts out his brilliant song, and always, it sets spring alight.
(1) Cornell Lab of Ornithology: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Fox_Sparrow/lifehistory