A Fox Sparrow Visit

Last Updated on October 9, 2020 by Nancie

Fox Sparrow in Fallen Leaves
Fox Sparrow in Fallen Leaves

On Sunday a Fox Sparrow came to visit. These little birds occasionally show up in our yard, but aren’t regulars. So it is always fun to see one hopping around on the ground with the other sparrows.


In our yard at least, Fox Sparrows seem to be loners. I’ve rarely see more than one at a time, unlike many other sparrows. White-Throated Sparrows and Dark-Eyed Juncos tend to hang out all winter in small flocks. And there always seem to be several Chipping Sparrows together when they arrive in the spring. We don’t see a lot of House Sparrows, but when we do, there are always at least a pair. But not Fox Sparrows. In my yard there almost always seems to be just the one.

Fox Sparrow
Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow Appearance

Although they look a bit like Song Sparrows, but the streaks on a Fox Sparrow’s chest are bolder and splotchier. Their coloring can vary a bit. In my region, they tend to be very foxy red overall.

That and their heavier look, makes them stand out to me. So when there is a Fox Sparrow hanging out with the more common White-Throated Sparrows and Dark-Eyed Juncos, it usually catches my eye right away.

Ground Feeding Birds

These birds breed way up north and aren’t found in the Mid-Atlantic much of the year. They show up in fall and winter. Like most sparrows, they like feeding on the ground. In warm weather, I don’t usually put seed on the ground. But when the fall sparrows arrive, I toss a few small handfuls of white proso millet over the ground each day by the brush pile near the house.

Brush Pile Cover

Brush piles are popular with a lot of birds, especially the sparrows. They provide year-round cover where birds can quickly escape the sudden appearance of a predator like a Cooper’s Hawk that sometimes hunts at feeders.

I’ve had several brush piles in my yard over the years. They solve what to do with fallen branches (our yard has many trees) and make small birds happy.

Fox Sparrow on the Brush Pile
Fox Sparrow on the Brush Pile

In my yard, Fox Sparrows seem more cautious than some other sparrows. The one that visited the other day stuck very close to the brush pile, rarely moving beyond six inches out from its safety.

Some of this might be extra caution of being new to the yard. But even at the end of the day, he didn’t venture more than a foot or two from the pile and was quick to retreat back.

Mixing With Other Sparrows

He’s not totally timid though. Whenever one of the little flock of White-Throated Sparrows got close, the Fox Sparrow did a little vertical jump, but stayed put. The other sparrow would move a bit away. As long as they maintain their favored spacing, the Fox Sparrow seemed to coexist with them peacefully enough.

Fox Sparrow Scratching in the Leaf Litter
Fox Sparrow Scratching in the Leaf Litter

Jump Back Scratch

Sparrows are funny little creatures. Without hands, they need to use their feet and legs to search for seeds and insects in the leaf litter on the ground. So they do a jump forward and then a quick drag of their feet back to expose a little patch of ground. It’s pretty common behavior among sparrows.

I just saw this little guy the one day and haven’t seen him since. He may have moved on, but I was glad he stopped by.


Learn More About Fox Sparrows

Check out All About Birds’ Fox Sparrow Page.

Learn More About Maryland Birds

See my post on Maryland Backyard Birds.

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