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Russet Sparrow - BirdForum Opus

(Redirected from Passer cinnamomeus)
Male nominate subspecies
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Dwarahat, Alt. 5200 ft., Uttarakhand Himalayas, India, 31 March 2018

Alternative names: Cinnamon Sparrow; Cinnamon Tree Sparrow; Ruddy Sparrow

Passer cinnamomeus


14-15cm (5½-6 in)


Female subspecies P. c. rutilans
Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Izumi--Izumi Crane Observation Center, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan, 18 February 2019
  • Bright cinnamon-brown or russet top of head to hindneck and upperparts, heavily streaked black on mantle
  • Black lores
  • Off-white ear-coverts and cheeks (strong yellow tinge in nominate and intensior)
  • Black median coverts with broad white tips
  • Blackish flight feathers
  • Dull brownish or grey-brown tail
  • Black chin and throat
  • Off-white underparts (stronge yellow tinge in nominate and intensior)


  • Sandy brown to dull cinnamon above
  • Conspicuous long, bright creamy supercilium
  • Broad pale and dark stripes on mantle
  • White chin and throat

Juveniles are similar to females but duller.

Similar species

Female nominate subspecies
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Dalhousie Hill Station, Alt. 7000 ft, HP Himalayas, India, 20 June 2014

The female resembles the female of House Sparrow but is more brightly marked and has a far more striking supercilium.


Found in Asia in the Himalayas, northern Indochina, China, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and north to Sakhalin (Russia). Winters in north Thailand.
Common in the western parts of its range, rare in the east, rare and declining in Taiwan.


Has been considered to form a superspecies or to be conspecific with Somali Sparrow.
The species name used to be Passer rutilans, however cinnamomeus has priority over rutilans.


Three subspecies recognized[1]:

The proposed subspecies batangensis from Sichuan is usually considered synonymous with intensior.

Male & female nominate subspecies, foraging together
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Almora, Alt. 5200 ft, India, April 2016


In the western parts of its range found in open woodland, terrace cultivation around villages and open parts of villages and towns. Occurs at 1000m - 4300m, down to edge of plains in winter.
In the eastern parts of its range found in open woodland, forest edges and cultivation, descending down to sea-level.



Feeds on seeds, takes also small berries. Nestlings are fed with caterpillars and grubs.
In winter seen in large flocks to feed on spilt grain and weed seeds in stubbles of cultivated fields.


Breeding season from April to July. A solitary breeder. The nest is an untidy collection of grass, placed in a tree hole or in a hole in a house. In the east of the range also placed in branches of shrub. Lays 4 - 6 eggs.


Birds of the Himalayas spend the winter at lower altitudes, birds from the east are migratory.


Most common call a monosyllabic cheep or chilp.
In the audio recording below, one can listen to the courtship song of a male, who was actively dancing around and courting a female, before day-break.

Recording © by Alok Tewari
Ranikhet Hill Station, Almora, Uttarakhand Himalayas, India, 8 May 2024 ... 5.48 am.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, and D Christie, eds. 2009. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8496553507
  3. Clement, P., A. Harris, and J. Davis. (1993) Finches and Sparrows: An Identification Guide. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, N. J.
  4. Mlíkovský, Jirí. (2011). Correct name for the Asian Russet Sparrow. Chinese Birds 2(2):109-110. doi:10.5122/cbirds.2011.0016.
  5. Rasmussen, P.C. & Anderton, J.C. (2012) Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. Vols. 1 and 2. Second Edition. Smithsonian Institution. Michigan State University & Lynx Edicions, Washington. D.C., Michigan & Barcelona.
  6. Summers-Smith, D. (2019). Russet Sparrow (Passer cinnamomeus). 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 https://www.hbw.com/node/60930 on 4 May 2019).

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