Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sooty Fox Sparrow at Lake Hodges

Sooty Fox Sparrow
Sooty Fox Sparrow (possibly unalaschensis). Lake Hodges, California. January 25, 2015. Greg Gillson.
The Sooty Fox Sparrow is the least common of the 3 expected forms of wintering Fox Sparrows in San Diego. The eastern Red Fox Sparrow is a rare winter visitor (there is only one San Diego record in eBird, though more must have been seen over the years).

Exactly a year ago in February I wrote of the Slate-colored Fox Sparrow that I had photographed. It is the most frequently encountered Fox Sparrow here. The Thick-billed Fox Sparrow also occurs, but I have been unable to get a photo, as of yet.

The Sooty Fox Sparrow is identified by the rather plain grayish-brown head and back that doesn't contrast strongly with the reddish-brown wings and tail. The breast is densely marked with wide brownish spots, converging on the upper breast. The bill is of average width with a yellow lower mandible. It gives a hard check or chap call. The winter habitat is dense riparian tangles, rather than chaparral.