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Fox Sparrow

A songbird with a grayish face, reddish brown back, and streaked breast perches on a limb.
Tom Murray/CC BY-NC 2.0



This is a relatively large, plump sparrow with gray and rusty-red markings. The chest and belly have a white background color with many overlying short rusty-red streaks. The tail and wings are primarily rusty in color. The fox sparrow is larger and rustier in color than any other sparrow species. It may be confused with the hermit thrush (a rare visitor to feeders), which also has a rusty-red appearance, but a thinner bill, a fain whitish ring around each eye, dark streaks on the chest, and lacks streaking on the head, back and wings.


Approximately 7 inches long.


Fox sparrows are found in habitats with abundant shrub cover such as thickets, mature forest and riparian woodlands. They are usually seen at feeders during periods of prolonged snow or ice cover. These birds are most likely seen in the eastern two-thirds of the state.

Life Cycle

At feeders, fox sparrows eat millet and black-oil sunflower seeds. Away from feeders they eat a variety of seeds and insects.

How To Observe

Fox sparrows are usually seen in small groups of less than six birds. They forage for seeds and insects on the ground. They are often heard before seen, because they kick and scratch at fallen leaves looking for food underneath. To attract this species, scatter seeds on the ground or place them on a low platform feeder near the ground. Though uncommon in residential neighborhoods, fox sparrows may be attracted to feeders in areas with or adjacent to thickets and forests.

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