Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # O_2012-01

Common name:

Red Fox Sparrow

Scientific name: Passerella iliaca iliaca group (iliaca/zaboria)
Date: 17 and 18 Dec 2011
Time: 0930-0940 on 17th; 1200-1300 on 18th
Length of time observed: 10 min on 17th; ~1 hr on 18th
Number: 1
Location: Logan Golf and Country Club, Logan
County: Cache
Distance to bird: Down to 8 ft.
Optical equipment: Nikon Monarch 10x42 binoculars, Nikon D90 with 80-400mm lens.
Light Conditions:  
Description:        Size of bird: Large sparrow
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Sparrow
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: See details below
(Description:)            Bill Type: Sparrow bill, see below.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
See photographs. Bill was yellow below and dark above, short and triangular like a typical sparrow bill. Bird was overall reddish. Back was striped with red and gray. Underside (belly and breast) had whitish base color with brownish red streaks. Wings were rusty red and brown with no obvious wing bars or patterning. Tail was reddish, especially at the base, resembling a Hermit Thrush's in color and pattern. Face was gray with reddish auriculars.
Song or call & method of delivery: Heard calling, which initially indicated the bird to us, from inside a dense rose bush bramble.
Behavior: Originally heard calling inside a rose bush along a hedgerow in the golf course, and didn t recognize the call as coming from one of our expected species. Bird was very secretive, hopping around in dense cover, and did not respond to pishing. It took 10 or 15 minutes for Guillaume and I to get good enough looks to be sure what it was, and well over an hour for Craig and I to get photographs the next day. Once observed flying out to a dripping water source in the adjacent canal, and then returning to the dense cover of a hedgerow of junipers, roses, and other vegetation.
Habitat: Dense hedgerow in the golf course.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Field marks that eliminate other subspecies groups of Fox Sparrow and that indicate Red Fox Sparrow include:

- Bicolored bill, dark above and yellow below. Short and triangular in profile.
- Reddish auriculars contrasting with gray cheeks
- Whitish malar separating reddish auriculars from reddish brown sub-malar triangle.
- Streaked back with rufous-brown streaks on grayish brown back.
- Distinct rufous-brown stripes on whitish flanks
- Distinctly reddish tail and rump, comparable to that of Hermit Thrush

This represents only the second report of this subspecies group that I know of for the state. Probably the more western "zaboria" subspecies within the Red Fox Sparrow iliaca group (not quite as bright as most illustrations I've seen of nominate iliaca), but not nearly so dull as to suggest any evidence of hybridization with Slate-colored. P. i. altivagans clearly eliminated by how bright, red, and constrasty this individual was.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Much experience with Sooty and Slate-colored Fox Sparrows. This was my first experience with a Red Fox Sparrow.
References consulted:  
Description from: From memory
Observer: Ryan P. O'Donnell
Observer's address: 1098 Crescent Dr, Logan
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Guillaume Peron on 17th and Craig Fosdick on the 18th.
Date prepared: 20 Feb 2012
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: Submitted as a "Special Sighting" because the UBRC does not review records of subspecies. I am aware of only one other observation of this subspecies group in Utah, by David Wheeler on 8 Nov 2011 from Lytle Ranch in Washington County, although I have not observed any documentation of that observation.