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House Sparrow - Male

House Sparrow - Male

Christopher Drake

The plucky house sparrow is one of the most widespread birds in the world, having been introduced in so many places that it is often considered an invasive species. Ironically, however, its population is experiencing serious decline in many of its native regions.

Common Name:

House Sparrow

Scientific Name:

Passer domesticus

Appearance:

  • Bill: Thick and conical, black in males and lighter in females
  • Size: 5-6 inches long with 9-inch wingspan, stocky body
  • Colors: Black, brown, white, buff, gray
  • Markings: Birds are dimorphic. Males have black chin and bib with white cheeks and rust colored cap and nape of neck, pale abdomen and black and brown streaking on back and wings. Males also have a single white wing bar. Females are plainer, with a buff eyebrow, brown and buff streaked wings and back and a lighter bill.

Foods:

Insects, seeds, grains, fruit

Habitat and Migration:

House sparrows were first introduced to North America in the 1850s and have become one of the most widespread birds in southern Canada, the continental United States, Mexico and Central America. They are highly adaptable to urban, suburban and agricultural habitats but are rarely found far from human habitation. Worldwide, these birds are also common throughout Europe, Russia and the Middle East, including India, though their numbers are declining in much of the Old World. House sparrows do not generally migrate but may become nomadic when seeking food sources.

For more information, see the complete house sparrow range map.

Vocalizations:

House sparrows can be very vocal in large groups but are quieter when isolated. Their calls include a fluttery “cheep” and rapid chattering sounds.

Behavior:

House sparrows congregate in large flocks to feed and roost, and bird colonies may be made up of several family flocks. They generally forage on the ground, hopping and scratching with their feet, or in trees and bushes while looking for insects. These birds may become aggressive toward other birds feeding nearby and are bold around humans.

Being so used to humans has made house sparrows resourceful in finding unique food supplies. They have been seen inspecting car grills for insects, and will feed on farms searching for spilled seed and grain.

Reproduction:

House sparrows are generally monogamous and will build bulky nests in roof crevices, nesting boxes and natural tree cavities, or they may chase other birds out of nests. The female will incubate a brood of 4-6 eggs for 14-18 days, then both parents will regurgitate food for the nestlings for 14-18 days until they leave the nest. Depending on the climate, pairs may raise 2-3 broods per year.

Attracting House Sparrows:

For many backyard birders, the challenge is not attracting house sparrows, but rather keeping them away because they are so abundant and aggressive. House sparrows will easily come to either platform or hopper feeders offering mixed seed, sunflower seeds or cracked corn, and they frequently nest along the eaves of houses.

Similar Birds:

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