Red Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca iliaca) - Wiki
Red Fox Sparrow
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[Photo] Red Fox Sparrow, probably Passerella iliaca iliaca. Description: Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca); Whitby, Ontario, Canada, 2005 November. Red Fox Sparrow, probably P. i. iliaca due to location/season. Photograph: Mdf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Mdf
The Red Fox Sparrow (Passerella (iliaca) iliaca} contains the most brightly colored taxa in the genus Passerella. It is currently classified as a "subspecies group" within the Fox Sparrow pending wider-spread acceptance of species status. It has long been suspected to be a separate evolutionary lineage due to morphological distinctness (Swarth 1920), and this is confirmed by analysis of mtDNA sequence and haplotype data (Zink 1994, Zink & Kessen 1999). This group appears to be most closely related to the Slate-colored Fox Sparrows (Zink & Weckstein 2003), but it altogether likely to form the basal lineage of the Fox Sparrow clade (Zink 1994).
Some diagnostic plumage characteristics include a gray eye-line, chestnut ear-coverts, reddish breast streaks, a gray rump, and bright rufous tail. This complex breeds in a wide band that stretches from Newfoundland to northern Alaska. Their preferred breeding habitats are dense willow and alder thickets as well as spruce and fir bogs. Sibley (2000) describes its voice as "a loud smack like Brown Thrasher".
Geographic variation in the iliaca complex is minor compared to individual variation, oth in morphology and molecular data samples (Zink 1994). The western Yukon Fox Sparrow differs from the nominate subspecies, the Eastern Fox Sparrow, only in having a grayer head and browner malar stripe on average. The morphological distinction between the subspecies is not pronounced and the birds are not resident; therefore absolutely certain identification within the Red Fox Sparrow complex is never possible in the field (Beadle & Rising 2003).
However, the populations occupy different ranges with a small band of overlap only. The contact zone is roughly the area between the Nelson and lower Churchill Rivers, Manitoba, in summer. In winter, the Mississippi River and the US states of Alabama and Georgia mark the approximate boundary between the subspecies' ranges. P. i. iliaca occurs from S Wisconsin and Ontario east to Massachusetts and then along the coast north to southern Canada; it ranges south to the Gulf of Mexico and N Florida, whereas P. i. zaboria occurs from SE Minnesota to the Great Plains, south to Texas and east to the zone of overlap mentoned above.(Weckstein et al 2002)
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