This bird is large for a sparrow. Its coloration is highly variable depending on geography, but in our region it is a rich foxy red-brown. A key identifying feature is the breast streaks, formed by fringed triangular shapes, apex up, on a white background. These dots are distinct, unlike the breast streaks of other sparrows which are more continuous. The beak is dark on top and yellow below; the face is gray.
Foraging on the ground, the Fox Sparrow hops forward and backward with a quick, jerky motion. This “double-scratch” uncovers insects and spiders. In winter it consumes many types of seeds and berries. It will eat elderberries and blackberries and seeds from many perennials both native and non-native. It prefers thick undergrowth as a wintering habitat.
What brings it to the SBG?
Food and cover. The Fox Sparrow breeds very far north. We are at the very northern edge of its wintering range. All those standing stalks in the SBG, left behind deliberately, shed seeds that a Fox Sparrow can find while it winters here. Not only that, but the stalks also provide cover from the weather and predators.
When can I see it?
Winter and possibly spring or fall.