Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Sooty Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrows are drab in the Pacific Northwest. This bird at our bird feeder on 29 March 2019 does not even seem like the same species as bright reddish Minnesota Fox Sparrows. This species is highly variable across its range. Eighteen races are described, which fall into three or four subspecies groups. Coastal Washington birds are most likely Sooty (aka Pacific) Fox Sparrows, which lack wing bars and have relatively short tails. Their lores, the area between their bills and eyes, are dark. The various groups of Fox Sparrow races only rarely interbreed. Ornithologists may someday split these groups into distinct species. For now, more genetic study is required (Weckstein et al. 2002). Meanwhile, if you are into listing birds, you may be wise to keep track of what kind of Fox Sparrow you find.

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