Birda Logo
Species Guide
A photo of a Red Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)
Red Fox Sparrow

Red Fox Sparrow

Passerella iliaca

The Red Fox Sparrow, a member of the American sparrow genus Passerella, is a robust bird with a length of 15–19 cm and a wingspan of 27 cm. It weighs an average of 32 grams. This bird is characterized by its gray head adorned with a rufous crown and ear coverts, and a white throat flanked by rufous lateral stripes. The lower bill is a pale yellow, darkening to black towards the tip. Its breast is marked with reddish-brown streaks and a central spot, while the belly remains predominantly white. The back displays a unique combination of rufous and gray streaks, leading to a gray rump, a feature that is diagnostic of the species. Both sexes share a similar morphology.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the Red Fox Sparrow, look for the distinctive rufous crown and ear coverts on a gray head. The bird's throat is white, bordered by rufous stripes, and the bill transitions from yellow to black. The reddish-brown streaks on the breast and the messy central spot are key features, as are the streaks that continue down the flanks. The back's streaks and the gray rump are also indicative of this species.


The Red Fox Sparrow favors dense willow and alder thickets, as well as spruce and fir bogs, particularly during its breeding season.


This bird breeds across a wide band of mostly taiga habitat, extending from Newfoundland to northern Alaska. In winter, it migrates to temperate and subtropical regions of North America, including the northern United States and southern Canada, where it is often seen during migration.


During the breeding season, Red Fox Sparrows may choose to nest on the ground or in low shrubs and trees, typically less than 2 meters above the ground. They are known to start their spring migration around February, returning to their breeding grounds by early May. Come fall, they begin their journey southward in early October, with the last individuals leaving the northern areas by mid-November.

Song & calls

The vocalizations of the Red Fox Sparrow can be likened to a loud smack, reminiscent of the Brown Thrasher's call.


The clutch of the Red Fox Sparrow consists of 3–5 pale blue to green eggs, heavily spotted with brown. Incubation, primarily by the female, lasts between 12 and 14 days. Both parents feed the altricial young, which fledge in 9 to 11 days.

Similar Species

The Yukon Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca zaboria) is similar to the Red Fox Sparrow but can be distinguished by a grayer head and a browner malar stripe. However, due to the subtle differences and the birds' migratory nature, positive identification within the Red Fox Sparrow complex can be challenging in the field.

Conservation status

The Red Fox Sparrow is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating that it is not at immediate risk of population decline or extinction.

Red Fox Sparrow Sounds

Recorded by: © 
App logo
Birda is a birdwatching app and community aimed at curious people who want to deepen their connection with nature.

Red Fox Sparrows on Birda


More New World Sparrows

Birda Logo

Your birdwatching journey like never before

Connect with nature in minutes
Take a walk, look out of the window and log the birds that you see. Feel good about those little connections to nature.
Discover the joy of birding
Find new birding spots, see more birds, share and celebrate with a like-minded community of nature lovers.
Play your part in saving nature
Logging your birding sightings and sessions turns into positive action for our planet. Every sighting counts.

Birda Blog

What Our Birders Say
Makes you want to spot birds more
I think this app is fun. It makes you want to spot birds more so I guess in a way it encourages you to get out and about instead of sitting in front of the TV.
Great App
Great app to use for logging and communicating with others who are interested in birds
Bryan C
Clean and easy to use
Really enjoying this app, it's clean and easy to use. I love the ease of being able to add those one-off birds without starting a whole checklist. I also like the social aspect, like the parts of my Facebook I like, without the ads and junk, just birds. Can't wait to see it become more populated.
Really great app
It’s easy to use and it’s fun to log the birds you notice on a walk or just in your garden. There’s a option to record the birds you see in a session which is really nice. Good excuse to stop for a while and just watch birds. I am also enjoying the information part where you can find out fact about birds from all over the world.
Simply fantastic
I love this app, it puts so much fun into recording the birds I’ve seen and heard while I’m out and about. The interface is user-friendly and suitable for all ages. It’s great to collect badges and to review my “lists”.
David C
Very knowledgeable group
Nice friendly birding community. Very knowledgeable group with a willingness to help.
Erna M
I really like Birda
I really like Birda. I also use other birding apps and have Birda with E-bird going at the same time.
Recommend for any bird watcher
Very wholesome app: I joined this app with a new interest in watching birds to help me find out what I was spotting. The community is very active in helping identify birds which is great and everyone is very kind so it’s just a nice wholesome community. I would definitely recommend this for any bird spotter 😃
Hip An
Really enjoying Birda where I live i have a lot of Red kites really hard to photograph but I can video are you planning some place on the app where us Birda can post vids🦉🦅
We've been waiting for an App like this
Excellent! We've been waiting for an app like this! Thank you! It would be nice if you could assign additional birds to sessions later!
As featured in
AboutPressAmbassadorsAffiliatesInfluencersCareersPrivacyTerms & Conditions
An app for birdwatchers
Giving back
Connect with us
Copyright © 2024 Chirp Birding. All rights reserved.