House Sparrow
The House Sparrow is a bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

 of the sparrow
The sparrows are a family of small passerine birds, Passeridae. They are also known as true sparrows, or Old World sparrows, names also used for a genus of the family, Passer...

Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 Passeridae, found in most parts of the world. One of about 25 species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 in the genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

Passer is a genus of Old World sparrows. These sparrows are plump little brown or greyish birds often with black, yellow or white markings. Typically 10–20 cm long, they have short tails and stubby conical beaks...

, the House Sparrow occurs naturally in most of Europe, the Mediterranean region, and much of Asia. Its intentional or accidental introductions
Introduced species
An introduced species — or neozoon, alien, exotic, non-indigenous, or non-native species, or simply an introduction, is a species living outside its indigenous or native distributional range, and has arrived in an ecosystem or plant community by human activity, either deliberate or accidental...

 to many regions, including parts of Australia, Africa, and the Americas, make it the most widely distributed wild bird. The House Sparrow is strongly associated with human habitations, and can live in urban or rural settings. Though found in widely varied habitats and climates, it typically avoids extensive woodland
Ecologically, a woodland is a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. Woodlands may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of...

s, grassland
Grasslands are areas where the vegetation is dominated by grasses and other herbaceous plants . However, sedge and rush families can also be found. Grasslands occur naturally on all continents except Antarctica...

s, and desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

s away from human development. A small bird, it has a length of 16 centimetres (6.3 in) and a weight of 24 –. Females and young birds are coloured pale brown and grey, and males have brighter black, white, and brown markings. The House Sparrow feeds mostly the seeds of grains and weeds, and insects, and can perform complex and unusual tasks to obtain food. The predators of the House Sparrow include domestic cats
The cat , also known as the domestic cat or housecat to distinguish it from other felids and felines, is a small, usually furry, domesticated, carnivorous mammal that is valued by humans for its companionship and for its ability to hunt vermin and household pests...

, hawk
The term hawk can be used in several ways:* In strict usage in Australia and Africa, to mean any of the species in the subfamily Accipitrinae, which comprises the genera Accipiter, Micronisus, Melierax, Urotriorchis and Megatriorchis. The large and widespread Accipiter genus includes goshawks,...

s, owl
Owls are a group of birds that belong to the order Strigiformes, constituting 200 bird of prey species. Most are solitary and nocturnal, with some exceptions . Owls hunt mostly small mammals, insects, and other birds, although a few species specialize in hunting fish...

s, and many other predatory birds and mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...



The House Sparrow is a chunky bird, typically about 16 centimetres (6.3 in) long, ranging from 14 –. It has a large rounded head, a short tail, and a stout bill. In weight, the House Sparrow generally ranges from 24 –. Weight varies by sex, with females usually smaller than males. Younger birds are smaller, males are larger during the winter, and females larger during the breeding season. Between and within subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

, there is further variation based on latitude, altitude, climate, and other environmental factors, under biological rules such as Bergmann's rule
Bergmann's Rule
Bergmann's rule is an ecogeographic principle that states that within a broadly distributed genus, species of larger size are found in colder environments, and species of smaller size are found in warmer regions. Although originally formulated in terms of species within a genus, it has often been...


The plumage
Plumage refers both to the layer of feathers that cover a bird and the pattern, colour, and arrangement of those feathers. The pattern and colours of plumage vary between species and subspecies and can also vary between different age classes, sexes, and season. Within species there can also be a...

 of the House Sparrow is mostly different shades of grey and brown. The sexes differ
Sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism is a phenotypic difference between males and females of the same species. Examples of such differences include differences in morphology, ornamentation, and behavior.-Examples:-Ornamentation / coloration:...

, with females and juveniles mostly buff
Buff (colour)
Buff is a pale yellow-brown colour that got its name from the colour of buff leather.Displayed on the right is the colour buff.EtymologyAccording to the Oxford English Dictionary, buff as a descriptor of a colour was first used in the London Gazette of 1686, describing a uniform to be "A Red Coat...

, and the male marked with bold colours. The male is duller in fresh non-breeding plumage, with buff tips on many feathers. Wear and preening expose bright markings of brown and black, including a throat and chest patch, called a "bib" or a "badge". This patch is variable in width and general size, and some scientists have suggested that patches signal social status or fitness, a hypothesis which has led to a "veritable 'cottage industry'" of studies, which have only conclusively shown that patches increase in size with age. In breeding plumage, the male has a grey crown
Crown (anatomy)
A crown is the top of the head.The following birds and other animals are said to have a crown on their head:* Cranes** Grey-crowned Crane** Red-crowned Crane** Black-crowned Crane* Crowned eagle* Gray-crowned Rosy Finch* Yellow-crowned Gonolek...

, and is marked with black on its throat and beneath the crown. The cheeks and underparts are pale grey. The mantle and upper back are a warm brown, broadly streaked with black, while the lower back, rump and uppertail coverts
Covert (feather)
A covert feather on a bird is one of a set of feathers, called coverts, which as the name implies, cover other feathers. The coverts help to smooth airflow over the wings and tail.- Wing-coverts :...

 are a greyish-brown. The female has no black on head or throat, nor a grey crown and its upperparts are streaked with brown. The juvenile is deeper brown, and the white is replaced by buff; the beak is pink to dull yellow.

There is some variation in the twelve subspecies of House Sparrow. The subspecies are divided into two groups, the Oriental indicus group, and the Palaearctic domesticus group. Birds of the domesticus group have grey cheeks, while indicus group birds have white cheeks, as well as bright colouration on the crown, a smaller bill, and a longer black bib. The subspecies Passer domesticus tingitanus differs little from the nominate subspecies, except in the worn breeding plumage of the male, in which the head is speckled with black and underparts are paler. P. d. balearoibericus is slightly paler than the nominate but darker than P. d. bibilicus. P. d. bibilicus is paler than most subspecies, but has the grey cheeks of domesticus group birds. The similar P. d. persicus is paler and smaller, and P. d. niloticus is nearly identical but smaller. Of the less wide ranging indicus group subspecies, P. d. hyrcanus is larger than P. d. indicus, P. d. bactrianus is larger and paler, P. d. parkini is larger and darker with more black on the breast than any other subspecies, and P. d. hufufae is paler.

The House Sparrow can be confused with a number of other seed-eating birds, especially its relatives in the genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Passer. Many of these relatives are smaller, with an appearance that is neater or "cuter", as with the Dead Sea Sparrow
Dead Sea Sparrow
The Dead Sea Sparrow , as its name suggests, is a breeding bird around the River Jordan, Dead Sea, and into Iraq, Iran and western Afghanistan. Breeding recorded in Cyprus but is probably extinct there now...

. The dull-coloured female often can not be distinguished from other birds, and it is nearly identical to the females of the Spanish Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
The Spanish Sparrow or Willow Sparrow is a passerine bird of the sparrow family Passeridae. It is found in the Mediterranean region and southwest and central Asia...

 and Italian Sparrow
Italian Sparrow
The Italian Sparrow is a passerine bird of the sparrow family Passeridae, found in Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean region. In appearance, it is intermediate between the House Sparrow, and the Spanish Sparrow, a species of the Mediterranean and Central Asia closely related to the House...

. The Eurasian Tree Sparrow is smaller and more slender with a chestnut crown and a black patch on each cheek. The male Spanish Sparrow and Italian Sparrow are distinguished by their chestnut crowns. The Sind Sparrow
Sind Sparrow
The Sind Sparrow , also known as the Sind Jungle Sparrow, Jungle Sparrow, or Rufous-backed Sparrow, is a passerine bird of the sparrow family Passeridae...

 is smaller, with the male less black on the throat and the female usually having a distinct pale supercilium.


All of the House Sparrow's vocalisations are variations on its short and incessant chirping call. Transcribed as chirrup, tschilp, or philip, this note is made as a contact call by flocking or resting birds, or by males to proclaim nest ownership and invite pairing. In the breeding season the male gives this call repetitively, with emphasis and speed but not much rhythm, forming what is described either as a song or an "ecstatic call", similar to a song. Young birds, especially in captivity, also give a true song, a warbling similar to that of the European Greenfinch
European Greenfinch
The European Greenfinch, or just Greenfinch, Carduelis chloris, is a small passerine bird in the finch family Fringillidae. The genus Carduelis might be split up and in this case, the greenfinches would be separated in their old genus Chloris again.This bird is widespread throughout Europe, north...

. Aggressive male House Sparrows give a trilled version of their call, transcribed as "chur-chur-r-r-it-it-it-it". This call is also used by females in the breeding season, to establish dominance over males while displacing them to feed young or incubate eggs. The House Sparrow gives a nasal alarm call, the basic sound of which is transcribed as quer, and it gives a shrill chree call in great distress. Another House Sparrow vocalisation is what has been described as an "appeasement call", a soft quee given to inhibit aggression, usually by a mated pair. These vocalisations are not unique to the House Sparrow, but are shared with small variations by all sparrows.


The House Sparrow was among the first animals to be given a scientific name
Binomial nomenclature
Binomial nomenclature is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages...

 in the modern system of biological classification
Biological classification
Biological classification, or scientific classification in biology, is a method to group and categorize organisms by biological type, such as genus or species. Biological classification is part of scientific taxonomy....

, since it was described by Carl Linnaeus in the 1758 10th edition
10th edition of Systema Naturae
The 10th edition of Systema Naturae was a book written by Carl Linnaeus and published in two volumes in 1758 and 1759, which marks the starting point of zoological nomenclature...

 of Systema Naturae
Systema Naturae
The book was one of the major works of the Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carolus Linnaeus. The first edition was published in 1735...

, as Fringilla domestica. Later the genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 name Fringilla
The genus Fringilla is a small group of finches from the Old World, which are the only species in the subfamily Fringillinae. The three species are:*Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs*Blue Chaffinch Fringilla teydea...

came to be used only for the Chaffinch
The Chaffinch , also called by a wide variety of other names, is a small passerine bird in the finch family Fringillidae.- Description :...

 and its relatives, and House Sparrow has usually been placed in the genus Passer
Passer is a genus of Old World sparrows. These sparrows are plump little brown or greyish birds often with black, yellow or white markings. Typically 10–20 cm long, they have short tails and stubby conical beaks...

created by French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson
Mathurin Jacques Brisson
Mathurin Jacques Brisson was a French zoologist and natural philosopher.Brisson was born at Fontenay-le-Comte. The earlier part of his life was spent in the pursuit of natural history, his published works in this department including Le Règne animal and Ornithologie...

 in 1760.

The bird's scientific name and its usual English name have the same meaning. The Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word passer, like the English word "sparrow", is a term for small active birds, coming from a root word referring to speed. The Latin word domesticus means "belonging to the house", like the common name a reference to its association with humans. The House Sparrow is also called by a number of alternative English names, including English Sparrow, chiefly in North America; and Indian Sparrow or Indian House Sparrow, for the birds of the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 and Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. Dialectal names include sparr, sparrer, spadger, spadgick, and philip, mainly in southern England; spug and spuggy, mainly in northern England; spur and sprig, mainly in Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

; and spatzie or spotsie, from the German Spatz, in North America.

The genus Passer contains about 25 species, depending on the authority, 26 according to the Handbook of the Birds of the World
Handbook of the Birds of the World
The Handbook of the Birds of the World is a multi-volume series produced by the Spanish publishing house Lynx Edicions. It is the first handbook to cover every known living species of bird. The series is edited by Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott, Jordi Sargatal and David A Christie.So far, 15...

. Most Passer species are dull-coloured birds with short square tails and stubby conical beaks, between 11 and 16 cm (4.3 and 6.3 in) long. Mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA is the DNA located in organelles called mitochondria, structures within eukaryotic cells that convert the chemical energy from food into a form that cells can use, adenosine triphosphate...

 suggest that speciation
Speciation is the evolutionary process by which new biological species arise. The biologist Orator F. Cook seems to have been the first to coin the term 'speciation' for the splitting of lineages or 'cladogenesis,' as opposed to 'anagenesis' or 'phyletic evolution' occurring within lineages...

 in the genus occurred during the Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 and earlier, while other evidence suggests speciation occurred 25,000 to 15,000 years ago. Within Passer, the House Sparrow is part of the "Palaearctic black-bibbed sparrows" group and a close relative of the Mediterranean "willow sparrows".

The taxonomy of the House Sparrow and its Mediterranean relatives is highly complicated. The common type of "willow sparrow" is the Spanish Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
The Spanish Sparrow or Willow Sparrow is a passerine bird of the sparrow family Passeridae. It is found in the Mediterranean region and southwest and central Asia...

, which resembles the House Sparrow in many respects. It frequently prefers wetter habitats than the House Sparrow, and it is often colonial and nomadic. In most of the Mediterranean, one or both species occur, with some degree of hybridisation. In North Africa, the two species hybridise extensively, forming highly variable mixed populations with a full range of characters from pure House Sparrows to pure Spanish Sparrows.

In much of Italy there is a type of sparrow apparently intermediate between the House and Spanish Sparrows, known as the Italian Sparrow
Italian Sparrow
The Italian Sparrow is a passerine bird of the sparrow family Passeridae, found in Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean region. In appearance, it is intermediate between the House Sparrow, and the Spanish Sparrow, a species of the Mediterranean and Central Asia closely related to the House...

. It resembles a hybrid between the two species, and is in other respects intermediate. Its specific status and origin are the subject of much debate. In the Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

, the Italian Sparrow intergrades over a roughly 20 kilometres (12.4 mi) strip with the House Sparrow, but to the south it intergrades over the southern half of Italy and some Mediterranean islands with the Spanish Sparrow. On the Mediterranean islands of Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

, Gozo
Gozo is a small island of the Maltese archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. The island is part of the Southern European country of Malta; after the island of Malta itself, it is the second-largest island in the archipelago...

, Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

, Rhodes
Rhodes is an island in Greece, located in the eastern Aegean Sea. It is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of both land area and population, with a population of 117,007, and also the island group's historical capital. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within...

, and Karpathos
Karpathos is the second largest of the Greek Dodecanese islands, in the southeastern Aegean Sea. Together with the neighboring smaller Saria Island it forms the municipality Karpathos, which is part of the Karpathos peripheral unit. From its remote position Karpathos has preserved many...

, there are other apparently intermediate birds of unknown status.


A large number of subspecies have been named, of which twelve were recognised in the Handbook of the Birds of the World. These subspecies are divided into two groups, the Palaearctic domesticus group, and the Oriental indicus group. Several Middle Eastern subspecies, including Passer domesticus biblicus, are sometimes considered a third, intermediate group. The subspecies P. d. indicus was described as a species, and was considered to be distinct by many ornithologists during the nineteenth century. Migratory birds of the subspecies P. d. bactrianus in the indicus group were recorded overlapping with P. d. domesticus birds without hybridising in the 1970s, so the Soviet scientists Edward I. Gavrilov and M. N. Korelov proposed the separation of the indicus group as a separate species. However, indicus-group and domesticus-group birds intergrade
In zoology, intergradation is the way in which two distinct subspecies are connected via areas where populations are found that have the characteristics of both...

 in a large part of Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, so this split is rarely recognised.

In North America, House Sparrow populations are more differentiated than those in Europe. This variation follows predictable patterns, with birds at higher latitudes being larger and those in arid areas being paler. However, it is not clear how much this is caused by evolution or by environment. Similar observations have been made in New Zealand, and in South Africa. The introduced House Sparrow populations may be distinct enough to merit subspecies status, especially in North America and southern Africa, and American ornithologist Harry Church Oberholser
Harry Church Oberholser
Harry Church Oberholser was an American ornithologist.Oberholser worked for the United States Bureau of Biological Survey from 1895 to 1941, first as an ornithologist, later as a biologist, and finally as an editor. He was the author of a number of books and articles...

 even gave the subspecies name plecticus to the paler birds of western North America.
  • domesticus group
    • P. d. domesticus, the nominate subspecies described by Linnaeus from a specimen collected in Sweden
      Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

      , is the found in most of Europe, across northern Asia to Sakhalin
      Sakhalin or Saghalien, is a large island in the North Pacific, lying between 45°50' and 54°24' N.It is part of Russia, and is Russia's largest island, and is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast...

       and Kamchatka. It is the most widely introduced subspecies.
    • P. d. balearoibericus von Jordans, 1923, described from Majorca, is found in the Balearic Islands
      Balearic Islands
      The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.The four largest islands are: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain with Palma as the capital...

      , southern France, the Balkans
      The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

      , and Anatolia
      Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

    • P. d. tingitanus (Loche
      Victor Loche
      Victor Loche was a French soldier and naturalist. He was the author of Histoire naturelle des mammifères de l'Algérie and Histoire naturelle des Oiseaux de l'Algérie . Loche first described the Sand Cat , which he identified as a distinct species while exploring the North Sahara.-References:...

      , 1867), described from Algeria
      Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

      , is found in the Maghreb
      The Maghreb is the region of Northwest Africa, west of Egypt. It includes five countries: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania and the disputed territory of Western Sahara...

       from Ajdabiya
      Ajdabiya was one of the districts of Libya. It lay in the northeastern part of the country. Its capital was Ajdabiya. As of 2007 it was subsumed within the enlarged Al Wahat District....

       in Libya
      Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

       to Béni Abbès
      Béni Abbès
      Béni Abbès also known as the Pearl of the Saoura also as the White Oasis, is a city located in southwest Algeria in Béchar Province, 250 km far from the capital of the Province and 1 200 km from Algiers....

       in Algeria, and to Morocco
      Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

      's Atlantic coast. It hybridises extensively with the Spanish Sparrow, especially in the eastern part of its range.
    • P. d. niloticus Nicoll and Bonhote, 1909, described from Faiyum, Egypt
      Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

      , is found along the Nile
      The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

       north of Wadi Halfa
      Wadi Halfa
      Wadi Halfa is a city in the state of Northern, in northern Sudan, on the shores of Lake Nubia . It is the terminus of a rail line from Khartoum and the point where goods are transferred from rail to ferries going down the Lake Nasser...

      , Sudan. It intergrades with bibilicus in the Sinai, and with rufidorsalis in a narrow zone around Wadi Halfa. It has been recorded in Somaliland
      Somaliland is an unrecognised self-declared sovereign state that is internationally recognised as an autonomous region of Somalia. The government of Somaliland regards itself as the successor state to the British Somaliland protectorate, which was independent for a few days in 1960 as the State of...

    • P. d. persicus Zarudny
      Nikolai Zarudny
      Nikolai Alekseyvich Zarudny was a Ukrainian-Russian explorer and zoologist of Ukrainian origin, who studied the fauna, especially the birds of Central Asia. He was born in Gryakovo, Ukraine . He wrote his first ornithology book in 1896 and made five expeditions in the Caspian region from 1884 and...

       and Kudashev, 1916, described from the Karun River in Khuzestan, Iran, is found in the western and central Iran south of the Alborz
      Alborz , also written as Alburz, Elburz or Elborz, is a mountain range in northern Iran stretching from the borders of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the northwest to the southern end of the Caspian Sea, and ending in the east at the borders of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan...

       mountains, intergrading with indicus in eastern Iran, and Afghanistan.
    • P. d. biblicus Hartert
      Ernst Hartert
      Ernst Johann Otto Hartert was a German ornithologist. Hartert was born in Hamburg. He was employed by Lionel Walter Rothschild as ornithological curator of his private museum at Tring from 1892 to 1929....

      , 1910, described from Palestine
      Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

      , is found in the Middle East from Cyprus
      Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

       and southeastern Turkey to the Sinai in the west and from Azerbaijan
      Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

       to Kuwait
      The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

       in the east.
  • indicus group
    • P. d. hyrcanus Zarudny and Kudashev, 1916, described from Gorgan
      Gorgan Some east of Gorgan is the Golestan National Park. The city has a regional airport and several universities. Gorgan Airport was opened in September 2005.-Etymology:...

      , Iran, is found along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea
      Caspian Sea
      The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

       from Gorgan to southeastern Azerbaijan. It intergrades with persicus in the Alborz mountains, and with bibilicus to the west. It is the subspecies with the smallest range.
    • P. d. bactrianus Zarudny and Kudashev, 1916, described from Tashkent
      Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan and of the Tashkent Province. The officially registered population of the city in 2008 was about 2.2 million. Unofficial sources estimate the actual population may be as much as 4.45 million.-Early Islamic History:...

      , is found in southern Kazakhstan to the Tian Shan
      Tian Shan
      The Tian Shan , also spelled Tien Shan, is a large mountain system located in Central Asia. The highest peak in the Tian Shan is Victory Peak , ....

       and northern Iran and Afghanistan
      Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

      . It intergrades with persicus in Baluchistan and with indicus across central Afghanistan. Unlike most other House Sparrow subspecies, it is almost entirely migratory, wintering in the plains of the northern Indian subcontinent. It is found in open country rather than in settlements, which are occupied by the Eurasian Tree Sparrow in its range. There is an exceptional record from Sudan.
    • P. d. parkini Whistler
      Hugh Whistler
      Hugh Whistler , F.Z.S., M.B.O.U. was an English ornithologist who worked in India. He wrote one of the first field guides to Indian birds and documented the distributions of in numerous notes in several journals apart from describing several new subspecies.-Life and career:Whistler was born in...

      , 1920, described from Srinagar
      Srinagar is the summer seasonal capital of Jammu and Kashmir. It is situated in Kashmir Valley and lies on the banks of the Jhelum River, a tributary of the Indus. It is one of the largest cities in India not to have a Hindu majority. The city is famous for its gardens, lakes and houseboats...

      , Kashmir
      Kashmir is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range...

      , is found in the western Himalayas
      The Himalaya Range or Himalaya Mountains Sanskrit: Devanagari: हिमालय, literally "abode of snow"), usually called the Himalayas or Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau...

       from the Pamir Mountains
      Pamir Mountains
      The Pamir Mountains are a mountain range in Central Asia formed by the junction or knot of the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush ranges. They are among the world’s highest mountains and since Victorian times they have been known as the "Roof of the World" a probable...

       to southeastern Nepal
      Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

      . It is migratory, like bactrianus.
    • P. d. indicus Jardine and Selby
      Prideaux John Selby
      Prideaux John Selby was an English ornithologist, botanist and artist and landowner.Selby is best known for his Illustrations of British Ornithology , the first set of life-sized illustrations of British birds...

      , 1831, described from Bangalore
      Bengaluru , formerly called Bengaluru is the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka. Bangalore is nicknamed the Garden City and was once called a pensioner's paradise. Located on the Deccan Plateau in the south-eastern part of Karnataka, Bangalore is India's third most populous city and...

      , is found in the Indian subcontinent south of the Himalayas, in Sri Lanka
      Sri Lanka
      Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

      , western Southeast Asia
      Southeast Asia
      Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

      , eastern Iran, and southwestern Arabia as far as southern Israel.
    • P. d. hufufae Ticehurst
      Claud Buchanan Ticehurst
      Claud Buchanan Ticehurst was a British ornithologist.Born at St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, Ticehurst was educated first at Tonbridge School and subsequently attended St John's College, Cambridge...

       and Cheeseman
      Thomas Frederic Cheeseman
      Thomas Frederick Cheeseman was a New Zealand botanist and also a naturalist who had a wide-ranging interest in natural history, such that he even described a few species of sea slugs, marine gastropod molluscs.- Biography :...

      , 1924, described from Hofuf
      Al-Hofuf is the major urban center in the Al-Ahsa Oasis in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.- Overview :...

       in Saudi Arabia
      Saudi Arabia
      The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

      , is found in northeastern Arabia.
    • P. d. rufidorsalis C. L. Brehm, 1855, described from Khartoum
      Khartoum is the capital and largest city of Sudan and of Khartoum State. It is located at the confluence of the White Nile flowing north from Lake Victoria, and the Blue Nile flowing west from Ethiopia. The location where the two Niles meet is known as "al-Mogran"...

      , Sudan
      Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

      , is found in the Nile valley from Wadi Halfa south to Renk in northern South Sudan
      South Sudan
      South Sudan , officially the Republic of South Sudan, is a landlocked country located in the Sahel region of northeastern Africa. It is also part of the North Africa UN sub-region. Its current capital is Juba, which is also its largest city; the capital city is planned to be moved to the more...

      , and in eastern Sudan, northern Ethiopia to the Red Sea
      Red Sea
      The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

       coast in Eritrea
      Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

      . It has also been introduced to Mohéli
      Mohéli, also known as Mwali, is one of the three islands which make up the nation of Comoros. Mohéli is located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa. It is by far the smallest of the Comoros islands. Its population, as of 2006, is about 38,000. Its capital city is Fomboni...

       in the Comoros
      The Comoros , officially the Union of the Comoros is an archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean, located off the eastern coast of Africa, on the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar...


Distribution and habitat

The House Sparrow originated in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and spread, along with agriculture, to most of Eurasia and parts of North Africa. Since the mid-nineteenth century, it has reached most of the world, due chiefly to deliberate introductions, but also through natural dispersal and shipborne travel. Its introduced range encompasses most of North America, Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

, southern South America, southern Africa
Southern Africa
Southern Africa is the southernmost region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. Within the region are numerous territories, including the Republic of South Africa ; nowadays, the simpler term South Africa is generally reserved for the country in English.-UN...

, part of West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, and islands throughout the world. The House Sparrow has also greatly extended its range in northern Eurasia since the 1850s, and continues to do so, as was shown by the colonisations around 1990 of Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

 and Rishiri Island
Rishiri Island
rises out of the Sea of Japan off the coast of Hokkaidō, Japan. The island is formed by the cone-shaped extinct volcanic peak of Mount Rishiri. Along with Rebun and the coastal area of Sarobetsu, Rishiri forms the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park. The main industries of Rishiri are tourism and...

, Japan. The extent of its range makes it the most widely distributed wild bird on the planet.

The House Sparrow has become highly successful in most parts of the world where it has been introduced. This is mostly due to its early adaptation to living with humans, and its adaptability to a wide range of conditions. Other factors may include its robust immune response, compared to the Eurasian Tree Sparrow. When introduced, the House Sparrow can spread quickly, sometimes at the rate of over 140 miles per year. In many parts of the world it has become a pest, and a threat to native bird species. A few introductions have died out or been of limited success, such as those to Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

 and Cape Verde
Cape Verde
The Republic of Cape Verde is an island country, spanning an archipelago of 10 islands located in the central Atlantic Ocean, 570 kilometres off the coast of Western Africa...


The first of many successful introductions to North America occurred when fifty pairs from England were released in Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

, New York, in 1852. It now occurs from the Northwest Territories
Northwest Territories
The Northwest Territories is a federal territory of Canada.Located in northern Canada, the territory borders Canada's two other territories, Yukon to the west and Nunavut to the east, and three provinces: British Columbia to the southwest, and Alberta and Saskatchewan to the south...

 to southern Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

, and it is one of the most abundant birds in North America. The House Sparrow was first introduced to Australia in 1863 at Melbourne
Melbourne is the capital and most populous city in the state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia. The Melbourne City Centre is the hub of the greater metropolitan area and the Census statistical division—of which "Melbourne" is the common name. As of June 2009, the greater...

 and is common throughout eastern Australia, but has been prevented from establishing itself in Western Australia
Western Australia
Western Australia is a state of Australia, occupying the entire western third of the Australian continent. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, the Great Australian Bight and Indian Ocean to the south, the Northern Territory to the north-east and South Australia to the south-east...

, where every House Sparrow found in the state is killed. House Sparrows were introduced in New Zealand in 1859, and from there reached many of the Pacific islands, including Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

. In southern Africa birds of both the European subspecies domesticus and the Indian subspecies indicus were introduced around 1900. Birds of domesticus ancestry are confined to a few towns, while indicus birds have spread rapidly, reaching Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

 in the 1980s. Despite this success, native relatives such as the Cape Sparrow
Cape Sparrow
The Cape Sparrow or Mossie is a bird of the sparrow family Passeridae. Brightly coloured and distinctive, it is coloured grey, brown, and chestnut, with some black and white markings on the male...

 also occur in towns, competing successfully with it. In South America, it was first introduced near Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent...

 around 1870, and quickly became common in most of the southern part of the continent. It now occurs almost continuously from Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan. The archipelago consists of a main island Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego divided between Chile and Argentina with an area of , and a group of smaller islands including Cape...

 to the fringes of Amazonia, with isolated populations as far north as coastal Venezuela.

The House Sparrow is closely associated with human habitations and cultivation. It is not the obligate commensal of humans some have suggested it is, as Central Asian birds usually breed away from humans in open country, and birds elsewhere are found away from humans. The only habitats in which the House Sparrow does not occur are dense forest and tundra
In physical geography, tundra is a biome where the tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons. The term tundra comes through Russian тундра from the Kildin Sami word tūndâr "uplands," "treeless mountain tract." There are three types of tundra: Arctic tundra, alpine...

. Well adapted to living around humans, it can frequently live and even breed indoors, especially in factories, warehouses, and zoos. It has been recorded breeding in a coal mine 640 metres (2,099.7 ft) below ground, and feeding on the Empire State Building
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is a 102-story landmark skyscraper and American cultural icon in New York City at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street. It has a roof height of 1,250 feet , and with its antenna spire included, it stands a total of 1,454 ft high. Its name is derived...

's observation deck at night. It reaches its greatest densities in urban centers, but its reproductive success is greater in suburbs, where insects are more abundant. On a larger scale, it is most abundant in wheat-growing areas such as the Midwestern United States
Midwestern United States
The Midwestern United States is one of the four U.S. geographic regions defined by the United States Census Bureau, providing an official definition of the American Midwest....

. It tolerates a variety of climates, but prefers drier conditions, especially in moist tropical climates. It has a number of adaptations to dry areas, including a high salt tolerance and an ability to survive without water by ingesting berries
The botanical definition of a berry is a fleshy fruit produced from a single ovary. Grapes are an example. The berry is the most common type of fleshy fruit in which the entire ovary wall ripens into an edible pericarp. They may have one or more carpels with a thin covering and fleshy interiors....

. In most of eastern Asia the House Sparrow is entirely absent, replaced by the Eurasian Tree Sparrow. Where these two species overlap, the House Sparrow is usually more common than the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, but one species may replace the other in a manner that Maud Doria Haviland
Maud Doria Haviland
Maud Doria Haviland, whose married name was Mrs. Harold Hulme Brindley was an English ornithologist....

 described as "random, or even capricious". In most of its range the House Sparrow is extremely common, despite some declines, but in marginal habitats such as rainforest or mountain ranges, its distribution can be spotty.


The House Sparrow is a very social bird. It is gregarious at all seasons when feeding, often forming flocks with other types of bird. It also roosts communally, its nests are usually grouped together in clumps, and it engages in a number of social activities, such as dust
Dust bath
Dust bath is the act of an animal grooming and cleansing its skin or fur from parasites by rolling or moving around within dust or sand.-Overview:...

 and water bathing, and "social singing", in which birds call together in bushes. The House Sparrow feeds mostly on the ground, but it flocks in trees and bushes. For the larger part it is sedentary, rarely moving more than a few kilometres. There is limited migration in sedentary populations, with mountain birds moving to lower altitudes and some young birds dispersing long distances, especially on coasts. In addition, two subspecies, bactrianus and parkini, are predominately migratory
Bird migration
Bird migration is the regular seasonal journey undertaken by many species of birds. Bird movements include those made in response to changes in food availability, habitat or weather. Sometimes, journeys are not termed "true migration" because they are irregular or in only one direction...

 and unlike the birds in sedentary populations that migrate, prepare for migration by putting on weight. Non-breeding House Sparrows roost in large groups in trees, gathering some time before and calling together. At feeding stations and at the nest, the female House Sparrows are dominant, despite their smaller size.


As an adult, the House Sparrow mostly feeds on the seeds of grains
Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

 and weed
A weed in a general sense is a plant that is considered by the user of the term to be a nuisance, and normally applied to unwanted plants in human-controlled settings, especially farm fields and gardens, but also lawns, parks, woods, and other areas. More specifically, the term is often used to...

s, but it is opportunistic and adaptable, and eats whatever foods are available. It can perform complex and unusual tasks to obtain food, such as opening automatic doors to enter supermarkets, clinging to hotel walls to watch vacationers on their balconies, and nectar robbing
Nectar robbing
Nectar robbing refers to the act by an animal, typically an insect or a bird, of removing nectar from a flowering plant, most often by drilling a hole in the corolla. In this way animals without morphological adaptations required by the structure of the flower may access nectar...

Kowhai are small, woody legume trees in the genus Sophora native to New Zealand. There are eight species, S. microphylla being the most common. Kowhai trees grow throughout the country and are a common feature in New Zealand gardens. Outside of New Zealand, Kowhai tend to be restricted to mild...

 flowers. In common with many other birds, the House Sparrow requires grit
A gastrolith, also called a stomach stone or gizzard stones, is a rock held inside a gastrointestinal tract. Gastroliths are retained in the muscular gizzard and used to grind food in animals lacking suitable grinding teeth. The grain size depends upon the size of the animal and the gastrolith's...

 to digest the hard seeds it eats. Grit can be either stone, often grains of masonry, or the shells of eggs or snails; oblong and rough grains are preferred.

Several studies of the House Sparrow in temperate agricultural areas have found the proportion of seeds in its diet to be about 90 percent. It will eat almost any seeds, but where it has a choice, it prefers oat
The common oat is a species of cereal grain grown for its seed, which is known by the same name . While oats are suitable for human consumption as oatmeal and rolled oats, one of the most common uses is as livestock feed...

s and wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

. In urban areas, the House Sparrow feeds largely on food provided directly or indirectly by humans, such as bread, though it prefers raw seeds. The House Sparrow also eats some plant matter besides seeds, including bud
In botany, a bud is an undeveloped or embryonic shoot and normally occurs in the axil of a leaf or at the tip of the stem. Once formed, a bud may remain for some time in a dormant condition, or it may form a shoot immediately. Buds may be specialized to develop flowers or short shoots, or may have...

s, berries, and fruits such as grapes and cherries. In temperate areas, the House Sparrow has an unusual habit of tearing flowers, especially yellow ones, in the spring.

Animals form another important part of the House Sparrow's diet, chiefly insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s, of which beetle
Coleoptera is an order of insects commonly called beetles. The word "coleoptera" is from the Greek , koleos, "sheath"; and , pteron, "wing", thus "sheathed wing". Coleoptera contains more species than any other order, constituting almost 25% of all known life-forms...

s, caterpillar
Caterpillars are the larval form of members of the order Lepidoptera . They are mostly herbivorous in food habit, although some species are insectivorous. Caterpillars are voracious feeders and many of them are considered to be pests in agriculture...

s, diptera
Diptera , or true flies, is the order of insects possessing only a single pair of wings on the mesothorax; the metathorax bears a pair of drumstick like structures called the halteres, the remnants of the hind wings. It is a large order, containing an estimated 240,000 species, although under half...

n flies, and aphid
Aphids, also known as plant lice and in Britain and the Commonwealth as greenflies, blackflies or whiteflies, are small sap sucking insects, and members of the superfamily Aphidoidea. Aphids are among the most destructive insect pests on cultivated plants in temperate regions...

s are especially important. Various non-insect arthropod
An arthropod is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton , a segmented body, and jointed appendages. Arthropods are members of the phylum Arthropoda , and include the insects, arachnids, crustaceans, and others...

s are eaten, as are molluscs and crustacean
Crustaceans form a very large group of arthropods, usually treated as a subphylum, which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles. The 50,000 described species range in size from Stygotantulus stocki at , to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span...

s where available, earthworm
Earthworm is the common name for the largest members of Oligochaeta in the phylum Annelida. In classical systems they were placed in the order Opisthopora, on the basis of the male pores opening posterior to the female pores, even though the internal male segments are anterior to the female...

s, and even vertebrate
Vertebrates are animals that are members of the subphylum Vertebrata . Vertebrates are the largest group of chordates, with currently about 58,000 species described. Vertebrates include the jawless fishes, bony fishes, sharks and rays, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds...

s such as lizard
Lizards are a widespread group of squamate reptiles, with nearly 3800 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica as well as most oceanic island chains...

s and frog
Frogs are amphibians in the order Anura , formerly referred to as Salientia . Most frogs are characterized by a short body, webbed digits , protruding eyes and the absence of a tail...

s. Young House Sparrows are fed mostly on insects until about fifteen days after hatching. They are also given small quantities of seeds, spiders, and grit. In most places, grasshopper
The grasshopper is an insect of the suborder Caelifera in the order Orthoptera. To distinguish it from bush crickets or katydids, it is sometimes referred to as the short-horned grasshopper...

s and crickets
Cricket (insect)
Crickets, family Gryllidae , are insects somewhat related to grasshoppers, and more closely related to katydids or bush crickets . They have somewhat flattened bodies and long antennae. There are about 900 species of crickets...

 are most the abundant foods of nestlings. True bugs
Hemiptera is an order of insects most often known as the true bugs , comprising around 50,000–80,000 species of cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers, shield bugs, and others...

, ant
Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than...

s, sawflies
Sawfly is the common name for insects belonging to suborder Symphyta of the order Hymenoptera. Sawflies are distinguishable from most other Hymenoptera by the broad connection between the abdomen and the thorax, and by their caterpillar-like larvae...

, and beetles are also important, but House Sparrows will take advantage of whatever foods are abundant to feed their young.


House Sparrows can breed in the breeding season immediately following their hatching, and sometimes attempt to do so. Some birds breeding for the first time in tropical areas are only a few months old, and retain juvenile plumage. Birds breeding for the first time are rarely successful in raising young, and reproductive success increases with age, as older birds breed earlier in the breeding season, and fledge more young. The timing of the House Sparrow's breeding season is varied, depending mostly on the availability of insects.

Before the breeding season, unmated males take up nesting sites and call incessantly to attract females. When a female approaches a displaying male, the male displays by drooping and shivering his wings, pushing up his head, raising and spreading his tail, and displaying his bib. The male then tries to mate with the female, who adopts a threatening posture and attacks him before flying away. The male flies after the female and displays in front of her, attracting other males, who also pursue and display to the female. These other males usually do not copulate with the female. When the female is ready to copulate, she solicits to the male by giving a soft dee-dee-dee call. Pairs copulate frequently and the male mounts the female repeatedly.

The House Sparrow is monogamous, and typically mates for life. Birds from pairs often engage in extra-pair copulations, so about 15 percent of House Sparrow fledgelings are unrelated to their mother's mate. Male House Sparrows guard their mates carefully to avoid being cuckolded, and most extra-pair occurs away from nest sites. Males may sometimes have multiple mates, and bigamy is mostly limited by aggression between females. Many birds do not find a nest and a mate, and instead may serve as helpers for mated pairs, a role which increases the chances of being chosen to replace a lost mate. Lost mates of both sexes can be replaced quickly during the breeding season. The formation of a pair and the bond between the two birds is tied to the holding of a nest site, though paired House Sparrows can recognise each other away from the nest.


The House Sparrow's nesting sites are varied, but it prefers the shelter of a hole. Nests are most frequently built in the eaves
The eaves of a roof are its lower edges. They usually project beyond the walls of the building to carry rain water away.-Etymology:"Eaves" is derived from Old English and is both the singular and plural form of the word.- Function :...

 and other crevices of houses. Holes in cliffs and banks, or in tree cavities are also used. It sometimes excavates its own nests in sandy banks or rotten branches, but it more frequently uses the nests of other birds: those of swallow
The swallows and martins are a group of passerine birds in the family Hirundinidae which are characterised by their adaptation to aerial feeding...

s in banks and cliffs, and old tree cavity nests. It usually uses unused nests, though it sometimes usurps actively used nests. The House Sparrow nests more commonly in tree holes in North America than in Europe, and as such it competes with bluebird
The bluebirds are a group of medium-sized, mostly insectivorous or omnivorous birds in the genus Sialia of the thrush family . Bluebirds are one of the few thrush genera in the Americas. They have blue, or blue and red, plumage...

s and other North American cavity nesters, contributing to their declines in population. Especially in warmer areas, the House Sparrow may build its nests in the open, on the branches of trees, especially evergreens and hawthorns; or in the nests of large birds such as stork
Storks are large, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with long, stout bills. They belong to the family Ciconiidae. They are the only family in the biological order Ciconiiformes, which was once much larger and held a number of families....

s or magpie
Magpies are passerine birds of the crow family, Corvidae.In Europe, "magpie" is often used by English speakers as a synonym for the European Magpie, as there are no other magpies in Europe outside Iberia...

s. In open nesting sites, breeding success tends to be lower, since breeding begins late and the nest can easily be destroyed or damaged by storms. Less common nesting sites used by the House Sparrow include streetlights and neon sign
Neon sign
Neon signs are made using electrified, luminous tube lights that contain rarefied neon or other gases. They are the most common use for neon lighting, which was first demonstrated in a modern form in December, 1910 by Georges Claude at the Paris Motor Show. While they are used worldwide, neon signs...

s, favoured for their warmth; and the old open-topped nests of other songbirds, which are domed over.

The nest is usually domed, though it sometimes is not roofed over in enclosed sites. It has an outer layer of stems and roots, a middle layer of dead grass and leaves, and a lining of feathers, as well as paper and other soft materials. Nest typically have external dimensions of 20 × 30 cm (8 × 12 in), but their size varies greatly. The building of the nest is initiated by the unmated male while displaying to females. The female assists in building, but is less active than the male. Some nest building occurs throughout the year, especially after moult in autumn. In colder areas House Sparrows build specially created roost nests, or roost in streetlights, to avoid losing heat during the winter. The House Sparrow does not keep territories, but it defends its nest aggressively against intruders of the same sex.

The House Sparrow's nests support a wide range of scavenging insects, including nest flies such as Neottiophilum praestum, Protocalliphora
Protocalliphora or bird blowflies are a blow fly genus containing many species which are obligate parasites of birds. The larvae suck the blood of nestlings and are found in the nests of birds...

blowflies, and over 1,400 species of beetle.

Eggs and young

Clutch (eggs)
A clutch of eggs refers to all the eggs produced by birds or reptiles, often at a single time, particularly those laid in a nest.In birds, destruction of a clutch by predators, , results in double-clutching...

 usually contain four or five eggs
Egg (biology)
An egg is an organic vessel in which an embryo first begins to develop. In most birds, reptiles, insects, molluscs, fish, and monotremes, an egg is the zygote, resulting from fertilization of the ovum, which is expelled from the body and permitted to develop outside the body until the developing...

, though clutches with only one egg or with as many as ten eggs have been recorded. Clutch size is larger at poleward latitudes and smaller near the sea and on islands. Central Asian House Sparrows, which migrate and have only one clutch a year, have an average of 6.53 eggs in a year. Variation in clutch size is caused by environmental and seasonal conditions, female age, and breeding density. Some intraspecific brood parasitism
Brood parasite
Brood parasites are organisms that use the strategy of brood parasitism, a kind of kleptoparasitism found among birds, fish or insects, involving the manipulation and use of host individuals either of the same or different species to raise the young of the brood-parasite...

 occurs, and instances of unusually large numbers of eggs in a nest may be the result of females laying eggs in the nests of their neighbours. Such foreign eggs are sometimes recognised and ejected by females. The House Sparrow is a victim of interspecific brood parasites, but only rarely, since it usually uses nests in holes too small for parasites to enter, and it feeds its young foods unsuitable for young parasites. The House Sparrow has been recorded as a brood parasite of the Cliff Swallow
Cliff Swallow
The Cliff Swallow is a member of the passerine bird family Hirundinidae — the swallows and martins.It breeds in North America, and is migratory, wintering in western South America from Venezuela southwards to northeast Argentina...

The eggs are white, bluish-white or greenish-white, spotted with brown or grey. Subelliptical in shape, they range from 20–22 mm (0.78740157480315–0.866141732283465 in) in length and 14–16 mm (0.551181102362205–0.62992125984252 in) in width, have an average mass of 2.9 gram (0.102294490104825 oz), and an average surface area of 9.18 square centimetre. Eggs from the tropical subspecies are distinctly smaller. Eggs begin to develop with the deposition of yolk
Egg yolk
An egg yolk is a part of an egg which feeds the developing embryo. The egg yolk is suspended in the egg white by one or two spiral bands of tissue called the chalazae...

 in the ovary a few days before ovulation. In the day between ovulation and laying, egg white
Egg white
Egg white is the common name for the clear liquid contained within an egg. In chickens it is formed from the layers of secretions of the anterior section of the hen's oviduct during the passage of the egg. It forms around either fertilized or unfertilized egg yolks...

 forms, followed by eggshell
An eggshell is the outer covering of a hard-shelled egg and of some forms of eggs with soft outer coats.- Insect eggs :Insects and other arthropods lay a variety of styles and shapes of eggs. Some have gelatinous or skin-like coverings, others have hard eggshells. Softer shells are mostly protein....

. Eggs laid later in a clutch are larger, as are those laid by larger females, and egg size is hereditary. Eggs decrease slightly in size from laying to hatching. The yolk comprises 25 percent of the egg, the egg white 68 percent, and the shell 7 percent. Eggs are watery, being 79 percent liquid, and otherwise mostly protein.

The female develops a brood patch
Brood patch
thumb|250px|Brood patch of [[Sand Martin]]A brood patch is a patch of featherless skin that is visible on the underside of birds during the nesting season. This patch of skin is well supplied with blood vessels at the surface making it possible for the birds to transfer heat to their eggs when...

 of bare skin and plays the main part in incubating
Avian incubation
Incubation refers to the process by which certain oviparous animals hatch their eggs, and to the development of the embryo within the egg. The most vital factor of incubation is the constant temperature required for its development over a specific period. Especially in domestic fowl, the act of...

 the eggs. The male helps, but can only cover the eggs rather than truly incubating them. The female spends the night incubating during this period, while the male roosts near the nest. Eggs hatch at the same time, after a short incubation period lasting 11–14 days, and exceptionally for as many as 17 or as few as 9. The length of the incubation period decreases as temperature increases later in the breeding season.

Young House Sparrows typically remain in the nest for at least 14 days. During this time, they are fed by their parents. As newly hatched House Sparrows do not have sufficient insulation they are brooded for a few days, or longer in cold conditions.


The House Sparrow's main predators are cat
The cat , also known as the domestic cat or housecat to distinguish it from other felids and felines, is a small, usually furry, domesticated, carnivorous mammal that is valued by humans for its companionship and for its ability to hunt vermin and household pests...

s and birds of prey
Bird of prey
Birds of prey are birds that hunt for food primarily on the wing, using their keen senses, especially vision. They are defined as birds that primarily hunt vertebrates, including other birds. Their talons and beaks tend to be relatively large, powerful and adapted for tearing and/or piercing flesh....

, but many other predators feed on the House Sparrow, including corvids
Corvidae is a cosmopolitan family of oscine passerine birds that contains the crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs and nutcrackers. The common English names used are corvids or the crow family , and there are over 120 species...

, smaller squirrel
Squirrels belong to a large family of small or medium-sized rodents called the Sciuridae. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots , flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa and have been introduced to Australia...

s, and even humans, as the House Sparrow has been consumed by humans in many parts of the world, and still is in parts of the Mediterranean. Most species of bird of prey have been recorded preying on the House Sparrow in places where there are extensive records. Accipiter
The genus Accipiter is a group of birds of prey in the family Accipitridae, many of which are named as goshawks and sparrowhawks. They can be anatomically distinguished from their relatives by the lack of a procoracoid foramen. Two small and aberrant species usually placed here do possess a large...

s and the Merlin
Merlin (bird)
The Merlin is a small species of falcon from the Northern Hemisphere. A bird of prey once known colloquially as a pigeon hawk in North America, the Merlin breeds in the northern Holarctic; some migrate to subtropical and northern tropical regions in winter.-European and North American...

 in particular are major predators, though cats likely make a greater impact on House Sparrow populations. The House Sparrow is also a common victim of roadkill
Roadkill is an animal or animals that have been struck and killed by motor vehicles. In the United States of America, removal and disposal of animals struck by motor vehicles is usually the responsibility of the state's state trooper association or department of transportation.-History:During the...

; on European roads, it is the bird most frequently found dead.

The House Sparrow is host to a huge number of parasites and diseases, and the effect of most is unknown. Ted R. Anderson listed thousands, noting that his list was incomplete. Many of the diseases hosted by the House Sparrow are also present in humans and their domestic animals, for which the House Sparrow acts as a reservoir host
Natural reservoir
Natural reservoir or nidus, refers to the long-term host of the pathogen of an infectious disease. It is often the case that hosts do not get the disease carried by the pathogen or it is carried as a subclinical infection and so asymptomatic and non-lethal...

. Arboviruses such as the West Nile virus
West Nile virus
West Nile virus is a virus of the family Flaviviridae. Part of the Japanese encephalitis antigenic complex of viruses, it is found in both tropical and temperate regions. It mainly infects birds, but is known to infect humans, horses, dogs, cats, bats, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, domestic...

, which most commonly infect insects and mammals, survive winters in temperate areas by going dormant in birds such as the House Sparrow. The commonly recorded bacterial pathogens of the House Sparrow are often those common in humans, and include Salmonella
Salmonella is a genus of rod-shaped, Gram-negative, non-spore-forming, predominantly motile enterobacteria with diameters around 0.7 to 1.5 µm, lengths from 2 to 5 µm, and flagella which grade in all directions . They are chemoorganotrophs, obtaining their energy from oxidation and reduction...

and Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms . Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some serotypes can cause serious food poisoning in humans, and are occasionally responsible for product recalls...

. Salmonella is common in the House Sparrow, and a comprehensive study of House Sparrow disease found it in 12.9 percent of sparrows tested. Salmonella epidemics in the spring and winter can kill large numbers of sparrows. The House Sparrow hosts avian pox and avian malaria
Avian malaria
Avian malaria is a parasitic disease of birds.-Etiology:Avian malaria is most notably caused by Plasmodium relictum, a protist that infects birds in tropical regions...

, which it has spread to the native forest birds of Hawaii. There are a few records of disease extirpating House Sparrow populations, especially from Scottish islands, but this seems to be rare.

The House Sparrow is infested by a number of external parasites, which usually cause little harm to adult sparrows. In Europe, the most common mite
Mites, along with ticks, are small arthropods belonging to the subclass Acari and the class Arachnida. The scientific discipline devoted to the study of ticks and mites is called acarology.-Diversity and systematics:...

 found on sparrows is Proctophyllodes, the most common tick
Ticks are small arachnids in the order Ixodida, along with mites, constitute the subclass Acarina. Ticks are ectoparasites , living by hematophagy on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians...

s are Argas reflexus and Ixodes arboricola
Ixodes arboricola
Ixodes arboricola, also called the tree-hole tick, is a species of parasitic tick that parasitises small passerine birds. It is among the most common species on the House Sparrow....

, and the most common flea on the House Sparrow is Ceratophyllus gallinae
Ceratophyllus gallinae
Ceratophyllus gallinae, known as the hen flea in Europe or the European chicken flea elsewhere, is an ectoparasite of birds....

. A number of chewing lice
Chewing louse
Mallophaga is a suborder of lice, known as chewing lice, biting lice or bird lice, containing more than 3000 species. They have paurometabolis or incomplete metamorphosis....

 occupy different niches
Ecological niche
In ecology, a niche is a term describing the relational position of a species or population in its ecosystem to each other; e.g. a dolphin could potentially be in another ecological niche from one that travels in a different pod if the members of these pods utilize significantly different food...

 on the House Sparrow's body. Menacanthus
Menacanthus is a genus of chewing lice which parasitise birds. The taxonomy of this genus is highly uncertain. Most taxonomies have given this genus as having over a hundred species, but recent studies have synonymised dozens of species and found other names to be invalid. Some Menacanthus species...

lice occur across the House Sparrow's body, where they feed on blood and feathers, while Brueelia
Brueelia is a genus of lice in the family Philopteridae, containing the following species:* Brueelia amandavae Rekasi & Saxena, 2005* Brueelia astrildae Tendeiro & Mendes, 1994* Bureelia cantans Sychra, 2010...

lice feed on feathers and Philopterus fringillae occurs on the head.

In the adult House Sparrow, annual survival is between 45 and 65 percent. After fledgeing and leaving the care of its parents, the young House Sparrow has a high mortality rate, which lessens as it grows older and more experienced. Only about 20 to 25 percent of birds hatched survive to their first breeding season. The oldest known wild House Sparrow lived for nearly two decades; it was found dead 19 years and 9 months after it was ringed
Bird ringing
Bird ringing or bird banding is a technique used in the study of wild birds, by attaching a small, individually numbered, metal or plastic tag to their legs or wings, so that various aspects of the bird's life can be studied by the ability to re-find the same individual later...

 in Denmark. The oldest recorded captive House Sparrow lived for 23 years. The typical ratio of males to females is uncertain due to problems in collecting data, but a very slight preponderance of males at all ages seems to be the usual situation.

Relationships with humans

The House Sparrow is closely associated with humans. Usually, it is regarded as a pest, since it consumes agricultural products and spreads disease to humans and their domestic animals. Even birdwatchers
Birdwatching or birding is the observation of birds as a recreational activity. It can be done with the naked eye, through a visual enhancement device like binoculars and telescopes, or by listening for bird sounds. Birding often involves a significant auditory component, as many bird species are...

 often hold it in little regard because of its molestation of other birds. In most of the world the House Sparrow is not protected by law. Attempts to control House Sparrows include the trapping, poisoning, or shooting of adults; the destruction of their nests and eggs; or less directly, blocking nest holes and scaring off sparrows with noise, glue, or porcupine wire. However, the House Sparrow can be beneficial to humans as well, especially by eating insect pests, and attempts at the large-scale control of the House Sparrow have failed.


The House Sparrow has an extremely large range and population, and is not seriously threatened by human activities, so it is assessed as Least Concern
Least Concern
Least Concern is an IUCN category assigned to extant taxon or lower taxa which have been evaluated but do not qualify for any other category. As such they do not qualify as threatened, Near Threatened, or Conservation Dependent...

 for conservation on the IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species , founded in 1963, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species...

. However, populations have been declining in many parts of the world. These declines were first noticed in North America, where they were initially attributed to the spread of the House Finch
House Finch
The House Finch is a bird in the finch family Fringillidae, which is found in North America. This species and the other "American rosefinches" are usually placed in the rosefinch genus Carpodacus...

, but have been most severe in Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

. Declines have not been universal, as no serious declines have been reported from Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

, but they have occurred in Australia, where the House Sparrow was introduced recently.

In Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

, populations peaked in the early 1970s, but have since declined by 68 percent overall, and about 90 percent in some regions. In London, the House Sparrow almost disappeared from the central city. The numbers of House Sparrows in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 have dropped in half since the 1980s, so the House Sparrow is even considered an endangered species
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

. This status which came to widespread attention after a female House Sparrow, referred to as the "Dominomus
Domino Day 2005 sparrow
The Domino Day 2005 sparrow, generally known as the domino sparrow was a House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, that was shot and killed by a hunter from the company Duke Faunabeheer in the Frisian Expo Centre in Leeuwarden, Netherlands during the preparations of Domino Day 2005 on 14 November 2005...

", was killed after knocking down dominoes arranged as part of an attempt to set a world record. These declines are not unprecedented, as similar reductions in population occurred when the internal combustion engine replaced horses in the 1920s and a major source of food in the form of grain spillage was lost.

Various causes for the dramatic decreases in population have been proposed, including predation, in particular by Eurasian Sparrowhawks; electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones; and diseases. A shortage of nesting sites is probably a factor, and conservation organisations have encouraged the use of special nest boxes for sparrows. A primary cause of the decline seems to be nestling starvation due to an insufficient supply of insect food. The decline in the insect population is caused by an increase of monoculture crops, the heavy use of pesticides, the replacement of native plants in cities with introduced plants and parking areas, and possibly the introduction of unleaded petrol, which produces toxic compounds such as methyl nitrite
Methyl nitrite
In organic chemistry, methyl nitrite is the simplest alkyl nitrite.-Structure:At room temperature, methyl nitrite exists as a mixture of cis and trans conformers...

. Protecting insect habitats on farms, and planting native plants in cities benefit the House Sparrow, as does establishing urban green spaces.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.