• BirdForum is the net's largest birding community dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE!

    Register for an account to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

House Sparrow - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by mali
Lakenheath, Suffolk, England, UK, 31 May 2021
Passer domesticus

Includes: Indian Sparrow

Identification

Female
Photo © by Sue and Simon Wakely
Whitford, Wales, 09 May 2021
Male domesticus on the left, male bactrianus on the right
Photo © by Meggie Francis
Hongya, Sichuan, China, 5 March 2009

L 16–18 cm (6-7 in).

Male

Female on left, Male on right
Photo © by christineredgate
Haverigg, Cumbria, UK, 10 November 2004
  • Grey crown with chestnut sides
  • Black lores and eye region
  • Bold black bib with whitish throat sides, most prominent in the breeding season. Cheeks dusky grey (white in bactrianus and indicus)
  • Heavily black-streaked brownish back
  • Broad white wing-bar
  • Horn coloured bill (black in breeding season)

Female

  • Duller without head pattern
  • Cream eyestripe (lacking in the male)
  • Heavily black-streaked brownish back

Juveniles are similar to females but paler and more washed-out

Similar species

Especially females are similar to females of other species like Italian Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Russet Sparrow or Iago Sparrow. Sind Sparrow is very similar but smaller.

Distribution

Nearly worldwide. Deliberately introduced by man on several continents, this bird is an unwelcome addition to the local ecologies, and another glaring example of the folly of the introduction of an alien species. They are now widespread on all the continents but Antarctica, and compete with native species. In the UK their numbers have been in severe decline over the years and they are now on the "Red List" of species at risk.

Map-House Sparrow.jpg
Legend

Original range
Italian Sparrow; year-round - now regarded as full species
Result of introductions
Maps/Texts consulted2

Taxonomy

Female in flight
Photo © by G6 UXU
Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire, UK, 15 September 2015

Twelve or more subspecies share the original distribution area, with P. d. indicus being smaller with whiter cheeks and more rufous in the crown. P. d. bactrianus is similar to P. d. indicus and is found in a different habitat than P. d. domesticus in the same area. In Central Asia P. d. domesticus is a resident species while P. d. bactrianus migrates to the Indian Subcontinent. Some authors therefore split P. d. bactrianus (with P. d. indicus) as Indian Sparrow.
Italian Sparrow has traditionally been included in House Sparrow, but some authorities think it is a form of Spanish Sparrow, some think it may be a stable population of hybrids between House and Spanish Sparrows, and there are more and more sources treating it as a full species. Below is a link to a discussion thread on the taxonomic status of this form.

Subspecies

Male in flight
Photo © by robby thai
Bung Borapet, Thailand, 8 January 2018
Subspecies biblicus
Photo © by Fink
Jerash, Jordan, 29 September 2018

There are 12 subspecies[1]:

Habitat

Mostly human settlement.
Bactrianus and parkini are found in grassland along riverbanks and avoid human settlement.

Behaviour

Non-breeding male (note black bill)
Photo © by D. Taylor
Wayne County, North Carolina, November 2018

Breeding

Nests of grass, wool, feathers and other soft materials are made in holes in buildings or other structures, though house sparrows will also breed in thick ivy and natural structures. The clutch consists of 4-5 glossy pale blue eggs which are incubated for about 12 days. The young fledge after about 3 weeks. There may be up to 4 broods in the season which runs from April to August (UK), though 2-3 broods is more normal.

Diet

Includes seeds, soft buds, fruit, insects, spiders and any food scraps from humans or on bird tables.

Vocalisation

Listen in an external program A flock of about 200 sparrows, recorded at Titchwell bird reserve, Norfolk

Subspecies balearoibericus
Photo © by Wiganlad
Mijas, Spain, 12 June 2018

Listen in an external program This is the classic sparrow chirp, often heard at length (up to half an hour!) in the Spring from an unmated male at the nest site trying to attract a female; although most persistent at that time the chirp can be heard from either sex all year round though for much shorter periods. Observation seems to indicate that as well as the breeding period usage of attracting a mate this call is also used to keep the flock aware of where other individuals are. A lone sparrow arriving may start up a chirp which attracts other sparrows. There is another variant of this, which has a disyllabic chirr-up, giving rise to an old English name for the house sparrow, "Phyllip sparrow" where the "phyll-ip" is onomatopoeic It is the loudest vocalisation of this bird.

Listen in an external program This 'chattering' sound is common where there are sparrows in proximity. Although it is hard to avoid an anthropomorphic association with angry scolding, observation shows this sound can also be uttered by an individual on discovering a new food source, and may therefore also simply draw attention. It is also used to warn of ground predators

Listen in an external program Low level churrs. Though the house sparrow is a common bird not many people have heard this sound because it is emitted at a fairly low level. This was recorded about six inches from sparrows feeding at a confined location (squirrelproof mealworm feeder) and seemed to enable the sparrows to feed in a closer proximitiy to each other (< 1 inch) than even this social bird normally permits.

Listen in an external program House Sparrow sound clip

References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Lowther, P. E. and C. L. Cink (2020). House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.houspa.01
  3. Bird Watching
  4. Discussion thread about the taxonomy of Italian Sparrow
  5. BTO House Sparrow Information sheet
  6. RSPB House Sparrow page
  7. Kate Vincent House sparrow decline PhD thesis Kate Vincent studied potential reasons for the decline between 2000 and 2005 part sponsored by the RSPB and English Nature.

Recommended Citation

External Links



Top