Congratulations to Joshua Lincoln for winning the November 2019 Vermont Atlas of Life iNaturalist photo-observation of the month. The image of a ‘eastern or red’ Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca iliaca) in Waterbury, Vermont garnered the most votes.
Late each fall, and then again in spring, Fox Sparrows visit our backyards here in Vermont. Most field guides and general references depict Fox Sparrows as a bird that nests only in the boreal forest of Canada and Alaska and the high mountains of western North America. The eastern subspecies of Fox Sparrow—the Red Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca iliaca)—has traditionally been considered a passage migrant through New England, stopping off briefly in late fall and early spring as it travels to and from its breeding grounds in eastern Canada. But that has recently changed.
A species never known to nest in New England prior to the 1980s, Fox Sparrows have expanded their breeding range south by about 400 km in a span of less than 30 years, and seem to be on track to continue this remarkable journey. If past trends are any indicator of the future, they will likely become at least occasional nesters in suitable habitat in Vermont and New York (and indeed, may already be). If you find any next summer, make sure you add your observations to Vermont eBird or the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist!
Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fav’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!