FOX SPARROW(Passerella iliaca) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Fox Sparrow eastern species is reddish brown with grey above the eye and neck sides. The breast is light grey with brown streaks. There is a brown spot in the middle of the breast. The reddish brown is more apparent on the rump and the tail, which is long. The bill is dark on top and orange under. The legs are reddish-pink. Sexes are similar. The length of the Fox sparrow is about 17 cm (7 inches). There are four subspecies.
NAME: The Fox sparrow is thus named due to its reddish tones which remind of the Red Fox. The English name ‘Sparrow’ derives from Anglo-Saxon ‘Spearwa’, which means ‘flutterer’, and it has been applied to many small birds (Choate). The Latin genus name ‘Passerella’ means “little sparrow”. As for the Latin species name ‘iliaca’, it refers to ‘flank’ (probably alluding to the streaked flanks of this bird).
HABITAT: Woodlands, scrub land.
DIET: Insects and arthropods during the breeding season, and seeds and berries for the rest of the year. The young are fed insects as well.
NESTING: The nest is built on or near the ground in a well-concealed area. Around three to five light green eggs are laid, incubated by the female. Chicks are fed by both parents.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeding range covers much of the boreal forest of Canada and Alaska. The Maritimes are located at the southernmost part of that range. During migration, fox sparrows can be observed in the southern part of Canada and the northern half of the USA east of the Rockies. They spend winter in the southeast part of the USA. Seen around feeders during migration and winter.
ON PEI: The fox sparrow breeds on Prince Edward Island but its presence is either rare or uncommon depending on the seasons.
CONSERVATION: Although not currently at risk, there has been a notable decline in the population in the last few decades.
NOTES: While feeding on the ground, this sparrow scratches the ground with both feet in a backward motion, then jumps ahead and begins again.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow
REFERENCES: (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas) (Missouri Department of Conservation)

Fox sparrow – Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, QC – photo by Cephas
Fox sparrow, Cap Tourmente, QC, Cephas