Common Name

Scientific Name

Photo by Jim Parrish
Photo Copyright Jim Parrish

The fox sparrow, Passerella iliaca, breeds in Alaska, Canada, and the mountainous parts of the western United States, and winters in the southern United States. It is an uncommon summer resident in northern Utah, but individuals do migrate through most of the state during spring and fall. This species inhabits forest undergrowth, forest edges, and dense thickets along streams. Its foods are mainly arthropods, but it eats seeds, berries, and occasionally buds as well.

The fox sparrow normally nests on the ground, rarely in a tree or shrub, exceptional nests being as high as twenty feet above the ground. Two to five eggs are incubated by the female parent for twelve to fourteen days. The nestlings are tended by both parents and fledge after nine to eleven days.

The common name of the fox sparrow is considered to be a reference to its reddish color, thought by some to be fox-like.


  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Peterson, R. T., and V. M. Peterson. 1990. A field guide to western birds, 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 432 pp.

  • Behle, W. H., E. D. Sorensen, and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. vi + 108 pp.