Fox Sparrows are great scratchers, and the first evidence of their presence is often hearing dead leaves being showered aside by their vigorous activity. In Ontario they breed chiefly in the dryer parts of the Hudson Bay Lowlands and most go to the southern United States or northern Mexico to winter.
We see them rather briefly during the spring and fall migrations and then seldom in large numbers, so they are birds sought after by bird watchers.
Fox Sparrows are larger than most of our migrant sparrows.With their rich rufous tails and spotted breasts they may be confused with hermit thrushes though their scratching habit should readily separate them from the hop and pause behaviour of the Hermits, with frequent tail raising.
The Fox Sparrow also has much gray on the face and hind neck with rufous ear coverts while the Hermit has a fairly uniform brownish head with grayish ear coverts.
The song of the Fox Sparrow is a series of “sliding” whistles “Soo-ee—swee—sa-sooee-swah”, something like the song of a Tree Sparrow but mush lower in pitch.
Dr. J. Murray Speirs