Fox Sparrow

November 13th, 2019: Some weeks you just don’t get out much…

…but I still went outside of course. I found time for a long walk through suburbia one morning. I thought I’d stop by 30th and John St., where birders have reported Evening Grosbeaks in previous years (and once or twice this year). So I listened hard for their trill notes as I wandered through the area. There’s also a yard there with lots of feeders.

A Black-capped Chickadee enjoying a view
A Black-capped Chickadee enjoying a view

I never did find any Evening Grosbeak, but there was a smattering of other passerines in the area. There were Rock Pigeon, Anna’s Hummingbird, Northwestern Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, European Starling, House Sparrow, House Finch, Dark-eyed Junco (the Oregon subspecies), Golden-crowned Sparrow, and a Fox Sparrow. Nothing out of the ordinary, but a nice cluster of birds in the well-treed area I found myself in.

A (Sooty) Fox Sparrow in the brambles in Vancouver
A (Sooty) Fox Sparrow in the brambles in Vancouver

The lone Fox Sparrow was foraging on the ground, as you’d expect. As a rule, if you see a pudgy- or stocky-looking sparrow “dancing” in the leaf litter (i.e. half hopping, half sliding its feet forward and back), it’s probably a Fox Sparrow. (Of course, our abundant Spotted Towhees do this too.)

Another Fox Sparrow in Vancouver
Another Fox Sparrow in Vancouver

Though they’re named for the redder hues they have out east, out west we have the “Sooty” subspecies (shown in my photos). The “Red” subspecies out east can really be remarkably red. I remember seeing one in the snow many years ago in Chicago and initially being puzzled while I pondered the strikingly red bird. Regardless of the subspecies, the delicate chevron patterns on their breast are particularly striking (very clear in the photo above). Fox Sparrows are most numerous in the early spring and fall, when you can often hear their harsh, metallic chips from the brush. To me, their call note sounds halfway between a Pacific Wren and a Dark-eyed Junco.

Golden-crowned Sparrows also often feed on the ground
Golden-crowned Sparrows also often feed on the ground

Anyway, it was a very nice walk this morning, but that’s not my usual brand of birding. I’ll have to find time to get out properly next week!

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