Fox Sparrows Are Passing Through

Fox sparrow (photo by Steve Gosser)
Fox sparrow (photo by Steve Gosser)

I saw my first fox sparrow this fall at Hillman State Park on Sunday, November 13.

Fox sparrows (Passerella iliaca) breed in Canada, Alaska and the northern Rockies and spend the winter in the southern U.S. so we typically only see them on migration in Pittsburgh.

These birds are never numerous and are often hard to find.  Sometimes you hear one scratching in dead leaves in the underbrush but he’s well camouflaged.  Fortunately the bird at Hillman flew into a tree with a flock of dark-eyed juncos so I could see him.  A nice surprise.

Look for surprises among the sparrows this week.  Perhaps the ducks and geese will arrive at last.

This phenology for early November still applies because our weather’s been so warm:

What To Look For in Early November


(photo by Steve Gosser)

2 thoughts on “Fox Sparrows Are Passing Through

  1. As usual, off topic: I saw my first great horned owl last night. It perched on my neighbor’s gable (Parkview Ave., Oakland) and called about every 30-60 seconds for about a half hour around 10 PM. Couldn’t get a good look — no binoculars, streetlight glare — but Peterson’s said the call is GHO. BIG when it flew away. Wow! Question: who was he/she calling and why?

    I had loved your post about banding saw-whets & wondered why the birds didn’t seem to mind. Peterson’s calls the SW “absurdly tame”, so there ya go.

    Thanks for everything!

    1. Kathy, this is the time of year when great-horned owls reinforce their territory and call for mates. They nest in January. Last year there was a nest near your street in the under structure of the Anderson Bridge. I’ll bet they’re getting active for this upcoming season.

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