Passerella iliaca


The Fox Sparrow's name best describes and derives from the Eastern sub-species, which are a fox-red rufous color. Because both the color and song of this bird varies distinctly across its range, researchers are considering separating this species into 3 or 4 distinct groups: the Red, the Sooty, the Slate-colored, and the Thick-billed. This bird is most likely seen during migration since it breeds in Canada and the Northwestern mountainous regions of the United States. Fox Sparrows forage for seeds and insects by scratching at the leaf litter under bushes and thickets. Coastal birds may also feed on tiny crustaceans.


Dark brown or slate-gray upperparts. White underparts with dark brown spotting. Thick, conical bill with dark upper mandible and yellow lower mandible. Wing and tail color may be the same or browner than back color. This birds plumage is highly variable across its range. The Eastern birds have a gray crown, nape and back; bright rusty rump and tail; rusty brown cheeks, back and wing streaks, and spotted underparts. The Fox Sparrow is much larger than other sparrows and can be separated from a thrush by its conical bill. Sexes similar. 6.25 to 7 inches in length.


Thickets, chaparral, and mixed forest understories.


4-5 pale green eggs heavily marked with red-brown spots. The eggs have a 12-14 day incubation period. Fledging occurs in 9-11 days. The nest is an open cup made from leaves, grass and moss and is built on or near the ground.

Observed Locations:

  • Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego
  • "The Drip", Cabrillo National Monument, Point Loma

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Copyright © Scott Streit, 2000.