May’s Bird of the Month


Springtime is the hardest time for me to select a BOTM. The great spectacle of spring migration is going on, and so many wonderful birds are making “First of Year” appearances on my Year List. All of these birds, many of them plumaged in the fullness of their breeding glory, really make selecting hard for me. But, try I must.

Once again, as I reflect on my birding over the last month, one bird does indeed stand out in my mind. It actually wasn’t the bird singly, but it was the situation in which I’d seen a group of these birds. This month’s Bird of The Month is the Fox Sparrow.

In Indiana, of the 30 or so different types of “sparrows” that one can see in the course of a typical year, the Fox Sparrow isn’t the most well known. It’s not that this is a rare bird; it’s just that they tend to be a bit shy and don’t hesitate to hide when they sense the possibility of being observed. They also aren’t very well known because they’re generally only in Indiana 6-8 weeks over the course of a year. (3-4 weeks in the early spring and 3-4 weeks in the late fall).

However, when one does find themselves in a position to observe this bird, you will see a relatively large and chunky sparrow. A sparrow that is heavily streaked on the chest, with those streaks converging into a dark spot at the chest’s center. You will also see that the bird is aptly named, as the coloring of this reddest of sparrows does indeed resemble that of the Red Fox.

This sparrow isn’t known to congregate in flocks. Matter of fact, that is the reason this bird stands out in my mind and is elevated to the BOTM. While birding a few weeks back, I found myself amongst about 20 or so Fox Sparrows. I’d never experienced a group even half that number before with the Fox Sparrow. I believe one of the reasons folks fall in love with birdwatching and birding is that you get surprised by what you see and come across every now and again.

Douglas “Birdman” Gray has been birding almost all of his life. He grew up on a family farm near Clarksville, Tennessee, where they grew crops ranging from apricots to wheat, and most things in between. They also raised chickens, guineas, pigs, horses, and a cow named…….Apples. Doug’s grandfather identified the birds they would see daily on the farm.

Doug now resides in Indianapolis and works in Parenteral Engineering with Eli Lilly and Company. Most of his current birding takes place in Indiana, with a concentration on Central Indiana, where he leads bird walks for “Backyard Birds”. Doug can be reached at 317-255-7333.


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