Bird Identification – Fox Sparrow

Do you imagine because he is called the fox sparrow that this bird has four legs, or that he wears a brush instead of feathers for a tail, or that he makes sly visits to the chicken yard after dark? When you see his rusty, reddish-brown coat you guess that the foxy colour of it is alone responsible for his name. His light breast is heavily streaked and spotted with brown, somewhat like a thrush’s, and as he is the largest and reddest of the sparrows, it is not at all difficult to identify him.

In the autumn, when the juncos come into the United States from Canada, small flocks of their fox sparrow cousins, that have spent the summer from the St. Lawrence region and Manitoba northward to Alaska, may also be expected. They are often seen in the junco’s company among the damp thickets and weeds, along the roadsides and in stalky fields bounded by woodland. The fox sparrow loves to scratch among the dead leaves for insects trying to hide there, quite as well as if he were a chicken or a towhee or an oven-bird who kick up the leaves and earth rubbish after his vigorous manner.

From Virginia southward, the people know the fox sparrow only as a winter resident. Before he leaves them in the spring, he begins to practise the clear, rich, ringing song, which fairly startles one with pleasure the first time it is heard.