Fox sparrows migrating to their northern breeding grounds visit my Nova Scotia feeding station and belt out bright, bubbling songs, setting spring alight.
For the past several days, a dozen fox sparrows migrating to their breeding grounds 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, the 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. Their plumage varies in colour, depending on 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.
Each spring, fox sparrows pass through our yard in northern Nova Scotia, and a male or two belts out his brilliant song. Always, it sets spring alight!
1. Cornell Lab of Ornithology: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Fox_Sparrow/lifehistory