The House Sparrow
Distribution: This species is native to Eurasia and northern Africa, occurring from the
Indeed, since the middle of the nineteeth century, the House Sparrow has followed humans all over the world and has been intentionally or accidentally introduced to most of the
This species was, for instance, introduced to North America when a group of one hundred birds from England was released in Brooklyn, New York, and today its range is spread from northern British Columbia to Labrador in Canada, and down through most of the United States through Central America.
A number of subspecies of Passer domesticus have been identified: Passer domesticus domesticus, Passer domesticus plecticus, Passer domesticus payni, Passer domesticus brutius, Passer domesticus maltae, Passer domesticus africanus, Passer domesticus balearoibericus, Passer domesticus tingitanus, Passer domesticus maroccanus, Passer domesticus biblicus, Passer domesticus niloticus, Passer domesticus indicus, Passer domesticus bactrianus, Passer domesticus parkini, Passer domesticus rufidorsalis, Passer domesticus hufufae, Passer domesticus persicus, Passer domesticus hyrcanus, Passer domesticus griseigularis.
Status: The House Sparrow is abundant in temperate climates, but not universally common, and it is even scarce in many hilly districts. In cities, towns and villages, even around isolated farms, it can be the most abundant bird.
Today, though, House Sparrow populations are declining across most of its range, notably in large parts of
Various causes for this dramatic decrease in population have been proposed, one of the more surprising being the introduction of unleaded petrol, the combustion of which produces compounds such as methyl nitrite, highly toxic for small insects, which form major part of young sparrows diet. Other theories blame the reduction in areas of free growing weeds, or nof umbers of badly maintained buildings, which are important nesting opportunities for sparrows.
While declining somewhat in their adopted homeland, House Sparrows remain one of the most abundant birds in
American population numbers are believed to have peaked in the early 1900's, and since declined. The switch from horses to cars is believed to be at least partly responsible, since much of the winter nourishment house sparrows obtained came from horse droppings.
Habitat: The House Sparrow is most abundant in populated areas where it is among the dominant species in terms of numbers. In many areas, it is even the most commonly found bird in agricultural, urban, or suburban areas. br> The House Sparrow's association with human beings has been in large part responsible for its successful invasion of many parts of the planet, notably North America. It is especially abundant in areas where grains are available, such as around farms and zoos. Along the Gulf coast of
General habits: The House Sparrow is gregarious at all seasons in its nesting colonies, when feeding and in communal roosts. It is virtually never seen on its own.
Wherever people build, House Sparrows sooner or later come to share their abodes. Though described as tame and semi-domestic, neither is strictly true; humans provide food and home, not companionship. The House Sparrow usually remains wary of man, though in places where they are used to being fed, such as parks and restaurants, they sometimes will be bold enough to feed in one's hand.
The House Sparrow is a frequent dust bather. It throws soil and dust over its body feathers, just as if it were bathing with water. Although not a water bird, the House Sparrow can actually swim if it needs to, such as to escape a predator. Sparrows caught in a trap over a water dish have been observed trying to escape by diving into the water and swimming underwater from one part of the trap to another.
Feeding habits: The House Sparrow's diet consists mostly of weed and grass seeds, grains, insects and invertebrates, and sometimes fruits. In the springtime, flowers — especially those with yellow colours — are often eaten; crocuses, primroses and aconites seem to attract the House Sparrow most. The bird will also hunt butterflies.
Although it forages mostly on the ground in open areas, this bird will perch on weed stalks to take seeds, and search tree barks for insects. It frequently also takes smashed insects stuck on cars. In urban areas the House Sparrow specializes on eating food and crumbs discarded by people. The House Sparrow is a frequent visitor to bird feeders .
Early in their invasion of
Breeding habits: The House Sparrow is polygamous. Two or three broods are usually raised per year, although there are reports of as many as five broods raised per year. Breeding frequently occurs in small colonies.
The nesting season varies in length according to the climate. It usually avoids the winter months, extending from March to late September in the Northern Hemisphere. There are areas, though, such as
The courtship behaviour involves the male attracting the female by hopping near her with his tail raised, wings drooped, chest puffed out, bowing and chirping.
Nest: The House Sparrow nesting sites are varied: under eaves, in holes in tree ir in buildings - houses, barns, city buildings - masonry or rocks, in ivy or creepers on houses or banks, on the sea-cliffs, or in bushes in bays and inlets. When built in holes or ivy, the nest is an untidy litter of grass, weeds, twigs, straw and rubbish, abundantly filled with feathers. Large, well-constructed domed nests are often built when the bird nests in trees or shrubs, especially in rural areas. When cavities are scarce, nests are built as large globular masses on open branches which have side entrances. In this sense, they can easily be distinguished from North American native sparrows of the family Fringillidae which build small cup-shaped nests. Both parents participate in nest building.
But the House Sparrow has another way of obtaining a nest:it is, indeed, quite aggressive in usurping the nesting sites of other birds, often forcibly evicting the previous occupants, and sometimes even building a new nest directly on top of another active nest with live nestlings. House Martins, Bluebirds,
Eggs: This species may lay anything between 1 and 8 eggs in a clutch, though usually 3 to 6. Research has shown that the clutch size tends to vary, in fact, with the latitude in the
Eggs are incubated by the female (others say by both parents). The House Sparrow has the shortest incubation period of all the birds: 10-14 days, so that a female can lay up to 25 eggs in a summer in
Young: Both parents participate in caring for the young. They are fed on larvae of insects, often considered destructive species. The chicks leave the nest approximately two weeks after hatching. Juveniles resemble adult females, though they are a deeper brown, and the white is replaced by buff; their beak is a dull yellow.
Call: The Sparrow's most common call is a short and incessant mettalic "cheep, chirrup". The song consists of a few chirping sounds, or "cheeps" similar to the call.
It also has a double call note "phillip" which originated the now obsolete name of "phillip sparrow". While the young are in their nests, the older birds utter a long "churr".
Description: This small stocky bird measures 14 to 16 cm, weighs 26 to 32 grams, and has a wingspan of 19 to 25 cm. Its head is relatively large and its tail is relatively short and slightly forked.
The male House Sparrow has a grey crown, grey cheeks and underparts, it has a chestnut nape, and is black on the upper breast and between the bill and eyes. The throat is white with a black throat-patch, and the eyes are brown. The thick bill in summer is blue-black, and the legs arepinkish to brown. Fresh fall plumage is edged with gray, obscuring these markings. The bill becomes yellowish-brown. The female has no black on head or throat, nor a grey crown; her upperparts are streaked with brown, they have a buffy eye stripe and an unstreaked breast.
The House Sparrow is often confused with the smaller and more slender Tree Sparrow, which, however, has a chestnut and not grey crown, two distinct wing bars, and a black patch on each cheek.
Did you know: The House Sparrow is a member of the
House sparrows were introduced to
The large North American population is descended from birds deliberately imported from
House Sparrows kill adult bluebirds and other native cavity nesters and their young, smash their eggs, and take over their nesting sites, and as such are major factors in the decline of bluebirds and other native cavity nesters in
Because the House Sparrow is smaller than the less aggressive native birds with which it competes, it is impossible to keep them out of nest boxes built for many native birds. Attempts to counter the effects of the House Sparrow on native bird populations include the trapping and shooting of adults and the destruction of their nests and eggs.
The House Sparrow has been present in
The House Sparrow is also called: English Sparrow, Town sparrow [English]; Huismossie [Afrikaans]; Huismus [Dutch]; Haussperling [German]; Gråsparv [Swedish]; Gråspurv, Huskall, Husspurv, Spurv [Norwegian]; Gráspurvur [Faroese]; Gråspurv [Danish]; Gráspör [Icelandic]; Moineau domestique [French]; Passera europea [Italian]; Corbatita, Gorrión, Gorrión Cacero, Gorrión casero, Gorrión domestico, Gorrión común, Pinzón inglés [Spanish]; Gorrió teulader, Pardal comú, Pela-roques [Catalan]; Pardal, Pardal comú [Galician]; Pardal, Pardal-comum, Pardal-domestico, Pardal-dos-telhados [Potuguese]; Pasler da chasa [Romansh]; Dompasero [Esperanto]; Vrabie [Romanian]; Vrabac [Croatian]; Domaci vrabac, Vrabac pokucar, Vrabac pokucarac [Serbian]; Vrabec domácí [Czech]; Vrabec [Slovak]; Domaci vrabec [Slovenian]; Wróbel, Wróbel domowy, Wróbel zwyczajny [Polish]; Gealbhan, Gealbhan Binne [Irish]; Gealbhonn [Scots]; Aderyn, Aderyn y tô, Golfan, Llwyd y tô, Sbrocsyn, Strew [Welsh]; Házi veréb [Hungarian]; Varpunen [Finnish]; Koduvarblane [Estonian]; Etxe-txolarre, Etxe-txolarrea, Pardal comú [Basque]; Harabeli [Albanian]; Evcil Serçe, Serçe [Turkish]; Tnayin Chnchghuk [Armenian]; Indonesian: Burung gereja [Indonesian]; Iesuzume [Japanese]; Adaikalang kuruvi, Ur kuruvi [Hindi]; : Jia ma-que [Chinese]; Serobele [Southern Sotho]; Shomoro-kaya [Swahili]; Tswere [Tswana]; Enzunge [Kwangali] ; Gorrión, Guyra tupao [Guarani]; Mwano kay [Haitian Creole French]