At first glance, the Eurasian tree sparrow is similar to the house sparrow, both in appearance and in the fact that both species are Old World sparrows introduced to North America. Unlike its cousin, however, the Eurasian tree sparrow has not spread across the continent and it lacks the aggressive behavior that characterizes the house sparrow.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
- Bill: Black, thick, conical
- Size: 6 inches long with 9-inch wingspan, compact body
- Colors: Brown, black, rufous, white, buff, gray
- Markings: Genders are similar with a rufous cap and nape, a thick white collar and white face marked by black lores and cheek patches. The chin is also black and the color may extend to a small bib. The back and wings are brown with black streaking, and there is one faint white wing bar. The flanks show a gray or brown wash against the lighter buff abdomen and chest. The tail is brown and legs and feet are pale.
Seeds, grains, insects
Habitat and Migration:
Eurasian tree sparrows are common and widespread in agricultural habitats and suburban parks and gardens throughout Europe, Asia and Indonesia, including the British Isles and the Middle East. In North America, the species was introduce in Lafayette Park in St. Louis, Missouri in 1870 and an established population exists in the greater St. Louis area, extending into eastern central Missouri, western Illinois and southern Iowa. The North American population does not migrate, but northern populations in Siberia may migrate to the Mediterranean coast in winter. Small Eurasian tree sparrow populations have also been introduced in Australia.
These birds are gregarious, particularly in flocks, and they have a harsh, high-pitched “chirp-chip-chip” call. The birds will also use a sharp “tek-tek-tek-tek” or “chweeep-chweeep” call in flight. Other sounds include rattles and churrs, typically heard during mating season or near an active nest.
Eurasian tree sparrows are not nearly as aggressive as house sparrows and will not compete strongly for nesting sites. These birds are shy but can become accustomed to humans easily, and they frequently form medium to large flocks outside the nesting season. In winter, they may be found in mixed foraging flocks with house sparrows on the ground or low in trees.
Eurasian tree sparrows are monogamous birds believed to mate for life. A mated pair will produce 2-3 broods of 4-7 eggs each during the nesting season, and both male and female parents take turns incubating the eggs for 13-14 days. The female will remain at the nest more to care for the altricial young, but both parents feed the birds for 12-14 days until they are ready to fledge.
Attracting Eurasian Tree Sparrows:
Within their ranges, these birds will readily come to backyard feeders offering millet, wheat, oats, cracked corn, milo, and other grains, as well as black oil sunflower seeds and kitchen scraps. They will use a shallow birdbath for drinking and bathing, and may take advantage of dry, loose soil for dust baths. These birds will also readily nest in birdhouses, though they may be driven out of them by more aggressive house sparrows.
- House Sparrow (Passer Domesticus)
- Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)
Photo – Eurasian Tree Sparrow © Peter