Fox Sparrow

The Fox Sparrow is one of our largest sparrows, at about 7″ long.  There are three main species of Fox Sparrows and about 18 sub-species of this bird. Fox Sparrow|Waller Park|Santa Maria, CA The main ones are: the Red Fox Sparrow, the Dusty Brown Fox Sparrow and the Slate-Colored Fox Sparrow.  All of them have various bill shapes and sizes, and several different plumage colors. Even with the differences in appearance, their behaviors and habits are similar.

Description

In general, Fox Sparrows have rounded heads and heavily streaked under parts. They have breast spots like inverted V’s or chevrons, which end in a large breast spot.  Some have a bright orange rumps and tails like the eastern sparrows. Some, like Western Fox Sparrows, are dark chocolate or dark gray-brown with almost no head markings. They have a lower yellow bill and a slightly notched tail.

Range and Habitat

Fox Sparrows are usually found in the undergrowth of dense coniferous thickets and deciduous bushes.  They are often seen in the winter and are found in most parts of the United States.

Behavior

These birds feed by scratching on the ground with both feet, like a towhee.  They feed on mostly on seeds and insects but will also eat berries.  Fox Sparrows found along the coast eat invertebrates found along the shore. They have loud and clear songs with slurred whistles. Variations can be heard in different parts of the country.  Some races have a “chinck” call like a California Towhee.  They often mimic other bird’s calls.  You might see a singing bird sitting at the top a of tree or shrub.

Breeding and Nesting

The male Fox Sparrow will sing to attract a female or defend its nest.  The nest is a cup made of grasses, leaves, and roots and is placed on the ground or in a bush.  The female lays 4-5 eggs. Both of the parents incubate the eggs for about 14 days. The young fledge in about 9-11 days.  The parents may raise two broods a season.

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