“Sooty” Fox Sparrow

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Fox Sparrows are easy to love. Large, solitary, slow-moving and generally easy to identify. That is, until you start considering the many subspecies that exist. In the east there is the “Red type” Fox Sparrow, In many western states there is the “Slate-colored type”. On the west coast we have the “Thick-billed type” and the “Sooty type”. In most places the species is a wintering occurrence, however in the Sierra Nevada, the “Thick-billed” breeds. Along the coast of California we see primarily the “Sooty” and within that large “type” there are several subspecies—all quite similar, and all very confusing. This drawing is of my favorite variety of “Sooty”—the darkest one. I call these “Chocolate” Sparrows. These stygian representatives of the species are large, hefty ground-dwellers that act pretty much like Spotted Towhees. They’ve got big heads, big bi-colored bills and strong legs and feet that they use to turn up dried leaves in search of food. I look forward to them every winter and love the fact that the San Francisco Bay has it’s own Fox Sparrow, Passerella iliaca annectens, or “Chocolate” Fox Sparrow.

 

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