Look for a large, plump sparrow with a rusty tail, a gray and rusty back, and a white chest with rusty spots. These are characteristics of the fox sparrow, which is now being seen eating seeds that have fallen from bird feeders. Brad Anderson captured an image of a fox sparrow on November 10, as it sat on the pavement of Floral Lane at Warren Dunes State Park.
Fox sparrows spend most of their time on the ground, and are known to kick up dead leaves in search of food. Like most songbirds, they hide among brush and tangles, which offer protection from predators and the elements.
In our area, fox sparrows can be found sparingly at feeders from November through the middle of March. They are most abundant in southern Michigan from the middle of October to early November, and again in spring from the middle of March through April. Most of the population spends the winter south of the Ohio River, west to Oklahoma and Texas. During the nesting season, fox sparrows inhabit coniferous forests in north Canada.
Rusty blackbirds are another species that nests in Canada, seen only during spring and fall migration in Southwest Michigan. One was photographed by Brad Anderson at Warren Dunes on November 8. Most rusty blackbirds have now departed Michigan for points south and we likely won’t see them again until spring 2020.
A previously reported ruby-throated hummingbird was seen again on November 10 by Madeline Johnston of Berrien Township at her backyard feeder.
Finally, I’d like to remind all readers to keep an eye out while driving for white-tailed deer. November is when bucks are looking for does and are crossing roadways more, which causes vehicle-deer collisions.
Jonathan Wuepper is an area naturalist. Report your sightings to him at email@example.com.