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Bird Identification

Fox Sparrow

Passerella iliaca Length: 7"

Look For

This large, boldly marked bird is named for its fox red coloration, but not all Fox Sparrows are reddish-some western birds are gray or even dark brown. Sexes are similar, and coloration does not vary seasonally.

Listen for

Fox Sparrows have a beautiful song that starts with several sweet whistled notes, then a trill, and ends with a short warble: sweet-sweet, chee-cheechee-tititititi-chew-wee! Call note is a loud chip! or smak!

play the song/call of the fox sparrow


Though similar in size, Fox Sparrows appear stockier than Song Sparrows. The fox red coloration is brighter than the Song Sparrow's earth tones, and the breast of the Fox Sparrow is spotted with rusty brown (the Song Sparrow's breast is streaked with brown).

Find it

Fox Sparrows prefer to forage on the ground, often in dense, brushy cover, scratching for food like a towhee. They do not normally winter in flocks, but they will join other birds in a thicket or feeding below a bird feeder.


The various forms of the Fox Sparrow (red, gray, sooty, and largebilled forms) appear very different and may one day be split into separate species.

This profile is an excerpt from The Young Birder's Guide by Bill Thompson, III. Purchase an autographed copy from our nature store, and check out other BWD titles designed to help you identify backyard birds.

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