Fox Sparrow: My First Real Sign of Spring

Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) photo by A.J. Hand

Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) photo by A.J. Hand

Late winter doldrums vanished last weekend when I spotted a Fox Sparrow kicking around in the snow under the bird feeder.  These robust sparrows stand out well among their drabber cousins, easily distinguished by their large size and foxy colored plumage.  They are so big that sometimes they are confused with Hermit Thrushes.  Last year I had enjoyed seeing one all winter, rare here in Connecticut, but that winter was a mild one and this winter’s heavy snows must have chased them all further south.  Everyone has a favorite bird sentinel of spring’s arrival.  Some people think “Robin” but Robins are common year round residents here in Connecticut.  My brother looked to the Turkey Vultures but for me it’s the Fox Sparrow, among the first of the songbirds to return.  He is also last to leave, signaling the end of our bird banding season.  When we catch one in November, we know it’s time to pack it in for the year.

Photo by A. J. Hand

Photo by A. J. Hand

There are four different color morphs, our New England “Red”being the brightest.  They don’t nest here, favoring the dense undergrowth of the boreal forest along the southern shore of Hudson Bay on westward through Alaska for their low cup nests.  There are other spring migrants coming through now.  I saw my first female Cowbirds yesterday, but that’s another story…


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Carla said,

    They are beautiful birds. And unlike most of their Sparrow cousins, fairly easy to identify. 🙂


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