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!


25 comments:

  1. These are Awesome! Great detail!

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  2. Wonderful images. I hope that you thaw out soon.

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    1. Thanks, Steve :-) I LOVE your kinglet photos!

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  3. Wow, gorgeous shots of the Fox Sparrow! You captured the colors perfectly.

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    1. Thanks, Eileen. I'll trade you a snowy Fox Sparrow for a Snowy Egret! ;-D

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  4. Your fox sparrow is such a pretty bird and solo well captured.

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  5. Beautiful photos, Tami! I hope your snow and ours in Alberta leaves soon!

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    1. I believe I saw a temperature starting with a "5" for next week! (and it was a DOUBLE DIGIT even) :-) Thanks for visiting and Tweeting my blog.

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  6. Nice looking bird - your long winter is matched by our failure to move into autumn - although the last few days have been promisingly cool!

    You do seem to have a much greater range of sparrows than us - different world down here really!

    Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW.

    Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Morning, Stewart (or Good Evening, I should say...)

      Thanks for your kind words. Hopefully you're cooling trend will continue.

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  7. Those are super shots and yes it does resemble the thrushes. Hope spring arrives for you soon.

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  8. just adorable little fox sparrows! great shots to show off their lovely plumage!

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  9. That's a very pretty sparrow. Your photos of it are beautiful!

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  10. One of the prettier sparrows...nice shots!

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  11. What a nice post!
    I really enjoyed this series with your Fox Sparrow. Nice shot showing his seldom seen crest!
    That is a song one could listen to a long time.
    We'll send you a little of our spring weather from central Florida to help melt your snow.
    We've seen quite a few migrants fueling up for flights north, so you should start seeing them soon!

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    1. Thanks, Wally! Your warm weather, and some of its birds, are starting to trickle in :-)

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  12. Beautiful pictures of these Fox Sparrow.
    My favorite is the first picture!
    Regards, Irma

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  13. They're so sweet...the middle picture is adorable, he's tipping his head as if he's questioning why it's still so cold! (I bet you're wondering that too!). They're adorable ... I love juncos too...we used to have flocks of them when we lived in Oregon.

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  14. I like the feathered patterns!

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  15. It's always a pleasure to see Fox Sparrows. Your wonderful photographs really show off their beauty well. I was not aware that they had crests, as you mentioned. Our spring has felt more like winter but I do see hope in the coming days. Can't wait to get outside and view some beautiful migrants! Super post!

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  16. I love all these shots...the Fox Sparrow is one of my favorite birds, we had a pure white one for a while.Thanks for the visit to my blog.

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