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October 2022

Vol. 50, No. 5

Observations: Notes on a Wintering Fox Sparrow

Matt Pelikan

First public appearance: A snowstorm brings the Fox Sparrow into the open, January 30, 2022. All photographs by the author.
First public appearance: A snowstorm brings the Fox Sparrow into the open, January 30, 2022. All photographs by the author.

One way to get to know a species is to encounter a lot of individuals over a long time in a lot of places. Appearance and behavior differ depending on whether a bird is migrating, defending a territory, or feeding young. Multiple experiences, even brief ones, eventually add up to a clear impression of the nature of a species. But there is also something to be said for prolonged acquaintance with just one bird, getting to know its daily routine and the way it responds to changing circumstances. Birds exist as individuals, as well as members of species, and the behavior of any individual varies, sometimes dramatically, across time and circumstance. Intimate knowledge of an individual can reveal what a species is capable of, which is often different from what is typical.

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