Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow is endemic to North America. When we first saw him, we were as stumped as John James Audubon, when, in 1834, he first tried to figure out who he was. The books today say that he is "variable in appearance" (eighteen different subspecies) and some ornithologists want to divide him into three or four species because of differences in appearance, differences in their songs, and some DNA evidence. Fox Sparrow is very shy and timid. As a result there are not a lot of references to him in literature - in fact, we don't know of any. As far as folklore goes, Native Americans just lumped Fox Sparrow in with all of the other Sparrows in their world and the early immigrants could care less. Nobody even knew he existed until Blassius Merrem identified him in 1778 (and Blassius classified him incorrectly).

If you get a good look, check his beak. The lower part (maxilla) is yellow while the upper part (mandible) is kind of gray. The pattern of his plumage is also distictiive, but we find appearance a difficult distinction because of his similarity to Song Sparrow. Different, but similar. The best way that you have to recognize him is the way he scratches for insects and seeds. He kind of hops and then, as he lands, kicks both feet backwards together. Very efficient. You will usually find him in among other hardworking Junco and Chickadee, but he will be the only one moving in this jerky fashion. Remember that he is very shy, so look fast. Expect to see him under the bushes among leaf litter that hides lots of insects. If your leaf litter is not rich in bugs don't expect Fox Sparrow to turn it over for you.

Fox Sparrow is in the process of developing enough local peculiarities to
differentiate him into seperate species. Darwin would be fascinated.

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