Birders often refer to sparrows as Little Brown Jobs or LBJs due to the fact that most sparrows have drab coloring and have a tendency to forage on the ground under thick cover making them difficult to see. However, fox sparrows are anything but drab. They range in color across North America but in the southeast tend to have a mix of gray and rufous on their upperparts and bright white with heavy rufous streaks on their underparts.
Fox Sparrows (Passerella iliaca) are only found in Tennessee during the winter and even then are not common. They breed mainly in northern Canada to Alaska. Therefore, I was very excited to see one kicking around in the leaf litter right outside the Visitor Center. It decided to grace us with its presence for several weeks and has been seen on a daily basis feeding among the more common white-throated sparrows.
Hopefully it will decide Ijams is a fruitful place to winter and will return next year.
- Text by Emily Boves, photo by Stephen Lyn Bales