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Fox Sparrow
Conservation status Least concern
Red Fox Sparrow
Red Fox Sparrow
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae
Genus: Passerella
(Swainson, 1837)
Species: P. iliaca
Binomial name
Passerella iliaca
(Merrem, 1786)
breeding ranges of the four Fox Sparrow groups
breeding ranges of the four Fox Sparrow groups

The Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) is a large American sparrow. It is the only member of the genus Passerella, though some authors split the genus into four species (see below).

Adults are heavily spotted and streaked underneath. Plumage varies markedly from one subspecies group to another. More specific information regarding plumage is available in the accounts for the various subspecies groups.

Fox Sparrow's breeding habitat is wooded areas across northern Canada and the west coast of North America from Alaska to California. They nest either in a sheltered location on the ground or low in trees or shrubs.

These birds migrate south on the west coast and to the eastern United States.

These birds forage by scratching the ground, which makes them vulnerable to cats and other predators. They mainly eat seeds and insects, also some berries. Birds on the coast may also eat crustaceans.

Subspecies Groups

  • Red Fox Sparrow (iliaca group)
    Sooty Fox Sparrow (unalaschcensis group)
    Slate-colored Fox Sparrow (schistacea group)
    Thick-billed Fox Sparrow (megarhyncha group)


  • BirdLife International (2004). Passerella iliaca. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  • Beadle, D. & Rising, J. D. (2002). Sparrows of the United States and Canada. San Diego: Academic Press.
  • Sibley, D. A. (2000). The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Chanticleer Press, Inc.
  • Zink, R. M. (1994). The Geography of Mitochondrial DNA Variation, Population Structure, hybridization, and Species Limits in the Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca). Evolution 48: 96-111.
  • Zink, R. M. & Kessen, A. E. (1999). Species Limits in the Fox Sparrow. Birding 31: 508-517.

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