Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)

Least Concern

Thick-billed Fox-sparrow (Passerella megarhyncha)


French: Bruant à bec épais German: Dickschnabelammer Spanish: Chingolo picogrueso

Passerella megarhynchus

S. F. Baird

, 1858,

Fort Tejon, Kern County, California, USA


See remarks under P. iliaca. Geographical variation very slight; species sometimes treated as monotypic. Proposed race mariposae (described from Yosemite National Park, in California) included in nominate. Race fulva of P. schistacea sometimes included in present species. Four subspecies tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. m. megarhyncha S. F. Baird, 1858 – W USA from extreme SW Oregon S to CN California (including Sierra Nevada); non-breeding in C & S California S to extreme NW Mexico (NW Baja California).
  • P. m. brevicauda Mailliard, 1918 – interior N coast ranges of California S to Colusa County; non-breeding C & S coastal California.
  • P. m. monoensis Grinnell & Storer, 1917 – E slope of Sierra Nevada (in EC California); non-breeding in C interior and S coastal California, and NW Baja California.
  • P. m. stephensi Anthony, 1895 – S Sierra Nevada (in S California); non-breeding at lower elevations in S California.
  • Descriptive notes

    15–18 cm; 29–38 g. Large sparrow with large bill and relatively long tail. Nominate race has slate-coloured head and upperparts washed with brown, rump brown,... read more


    Song clear and ringing, starting with 2–3 syllables on different pitches, “too-wheet-whoo tweek-... read more


    Deciduous thickets, sometimes thick, scrubby conifers, generally along streams, brushy fields,... read more

    Food and feeding

    In breeding season feeds primarily on insects, and probably also on other animal items; will also take seeds and berries when they are... read more


    Season mid-May to mid-Jul; probably single-brooded. Probably monogamous. Nest built by female, of dry grass, twigs, moss or bark, lined... read more


    Most, if not all, populations migratory, some perhaps moving very short distance or performing... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common. Little information available on numbers.

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. (2020). Thick-billed Fox-sparrow (Passerella megarhyncha). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 29 February 2020).