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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Fox Sparrow -- Passerella iliaca

RANGE: Breeds from Alaska and the Yukon to northern Quebec and northern Labrador, south to northwestern Washington, in the western mountains to southern California and central Colorado, and east of the Rockies, across central Canada to southern Quebec. Winters from southern Alaska and southern British Columbia south through the Pacific States, and from central Arizona, Kansas and New Brunswick south to Mexico and central Florida.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Fairly nonspecific in its requirements, needing only dense, shrubby undergrowth. Inhabits a wide variety of habitats throughout its range, including the undergrowth of deciduous or coniferous forests, brushy woodland edges, woodland thickets, chaparral, burns, cut over areas, scrub, riparian woodlands, willow thickets, and montane coniferous scrub.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Dense shrubby undergrowth.

NEST: Commonly locates nest on the ground, well-concealed by surrounding tangles of vegetation, or in a bush or tree, typically less than 6 feet, but up to 20 feet above the ground. Prefers conifers for nesting.

FOOD: Feeds primarily on insects in summer and on seeds of weeds and some grasses in winter. Forages on the ground, scratching in leaf litter under shrubs and in weed patches.

REFERENCES: Austin in Bent 1968c, Forbush and May 1955, Terrill in Bent 1968c, Verner and Boss 1980.

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