Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Snowy Fox Sparrows
Yes, I said "snowy." For most of the Midwest it's been a really LONG winter. I've been watching fellow bloggers post images of butterflies and moths, blooming flowers and migrating warblers. Keep it up, please - you're helping me keep the winter blues away!
Another thing that helps with long winters like this, is the opportunity to observe migratory birds a bit longer as they hunker down to wait out the weather.
In addition to the hordes of juncos currently mobbing our feeders, we've had a large flock (20+ birds) of Fox Sparrows hanging around.
Fox Sparrows are "scratchers." They scratch back on the ground, giving a short hop as they do it, to uncover and loosen seeds. It's been really fun to watch them do this in 4-5" of snow. They scratch. Look down at the snow. Scratch again. Nope, still snow. Keep scratching!
We've been distributing bird seed all around the yard under our spruces and pines, giving the birds some cover while they forage. Two days ago there were hundreds of robins hanging out under the trees, escaping the icy rain.
But getting back to the beautifully-marked Fox Sparrow... I think they look like a cross between a thrush and a sparrow. The russet tail and the large splotchy neck and chest remind me of a Hermit Thrush. And the way the splotchy pattern runs down their sides reminds me of Ovenbirds. Size-wise, they're one of the largest sparrows, half again as big as a House Sparrow but not quite as large as the Harris's Sparrow.
And, while this isn't a very good photo, I'm going to include it simply because it's an opportunity to see its crest. Most people don't realize that Fox Sparrows have a small crest similar to Tree Sparrows:
It's also a chance to see the slate gray coloration on the sparrow's nape and sides of its head. Western Fox Sparrows have more gray with very little russet color.
Most of these beautiful birds will be gone in the next week or so, continuing their migration from the southern U.S. to upper parts of Canada and Alaska. Flocks of the western Fox Sparrow breed throughout the Rocky Mountains as well.
One of the best parts of having these large sparrows around? They have a beautiful song! I've been cracking my kitchen window open just to enjoy their songs. Larkwire has a nice recording.
Well, I'm off to enjoy other more tropical bird posts, all part of Wild Bird Wednesday. Be sure to visit the other bloggers to see what they've been up to!