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Fox Sparrow

The Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) is a large American sparrow. It is the only member of the genus Passerella, although some authors split the species into four groups. The Red Fox Sparrow, Sooty Fox Sparrow, Slate-colored Fox Sparrow and the Thick-billed Fox Sparrow.

Adults are among the largest sparrows, heavily spotted and streaked underneath. All feature a messy central breast spot though it is less noticeable on the Thick billed and Slate-colored varieties. Plumage varies markedly from one group to another. [Wikipedia]


Typically seen sending up a spray of leaf litter as they kick around in search of food, Fox Sparrows are dark, splotchy sparrows of dense thickets. Named for the rich red hues that many Fox Sparrows wear, this species is nevertheless one of our most variable birds, with four main groups that can range from foxy red to gray to dark brown. Since they breed primarily in remote areas, many people see them in winter when the birds move into backyard thickets. [All About Birds]

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow Facts [All About Birds]

  • People have spotted individual Fox Sparrows in Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Germany, and Italy. Some of these vagrant birds probably made part of their transatlantic journey by ship, after touching down to rest on a vessel far from shore.
  • Fox Sparrow fossils from the Pleistocene (about 11,000 years ago) have been found in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and at the La Brea tar pits in California.
  • The oldest recorded Fox Sparrow was at least 10 years, 4 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in California in 2003, the same state where it had been banded.


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