House Sparrow

Passer domesticus

The Sparrow to many, the House Sparrow was introduced into North America from its native Europe in the 1850s. It successfully spread across the continent, and is abundant in urban and agricultural habitats. Although it is found in many remote places, it nearly always stays near people and their buildings.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • The House Sparrow was introduced into Brooklyn, New York, in 1851. By 1900 it had spread to the Rocky Mountains. Its spread throughout the West was aided by additional introductions in San Francisco, California, and Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • The House Sparrow has been present in North America long enough for evolution to have influenced their morphology. Populations in the north are larger than those in the south, as is generally true for native species (a relationship known as Bergman's Rule).
  • Although not a water bird, the House Sparrow can swim if it needs to, such as to escape a predator. Sparrows caught in a trap over a water dish tried to escape by diving into the water and swimming underwater from one part of the trap to another.
  • The House Sparrow is a frequent dust bather. It throws soil and dust over its body feathers, just as if it were bathing with water.

Description

  • Size: 14-16 cm (6-6 in)
  • Wingspan: 19-25 cm (7-10 in)
  • Weight: 26-32 g (0.92-1.13 ounces)
  • Small, stocky songbird.
  • Bill thick.
  • Legs short.
  • Chest unstreaked.
  • Wingbars.
  • Male with black throat and white cheeks.
  • Back brown with black streaking.
Sex Differences
Male with reddish back and black bib, female brown with eyestripe.
Male
White cheeks. Black throat and chest. Back of head chestnut, extending to eye. Gray cap. Bill black. Broad, white upper wingbar. Back feathers edged with chestnut. Underparts whitish gray. In winter, the black bib is hidden by pale tips to the breast feathers that eventually wear off and reveal the black.
Female
Dingy brown all over. Unstriped gray brown chest and underparts. Large pale yellowish eyestripe. Black and straw-colored stripes on back. Bill yellowish. Eyes black. Crown plain gray brown.
Immature
Juvenile similar to adult female.
 
Range Map
 
Taxonomic Hierarchy

Spotted_Sandpiper_AllAm

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Passeridae
Genus: Passer
Species: Passer domesticus
     Subspecies: Passer domesticus domesticus
Sound
Calls a slightly metallic "cheep, chirrup." Song a series of cheeps.

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
Body
  • Length Range: 14-17 cm (5.5-6.5 in)
  • Weight: 28 g (1 oz)
  • Size: 2. Small (5 - 9 in)
  • Color Primary: Brown, Gray
  • Underparts: Pale Gray
  • Upperparts: Red-brown with black and buff streaking.
  • Back Pattern: Striped or streaked
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
 
Head
  • Bill Shape: Cone
  • Eye Color: Hazel brown.
  • Head Pattern: Eyeline, Capped, Unique pattern
  • Crown Color: Gray
  • Forehead Color: Gray
  • Nape Color: Red-brown
  • Throat Color: Black
  • Cere color: No Data
Flight
  • Flight Pattern: Swift bounding flight., Alternates several rapid wing beats with brief periods of wings pulled to sides.
  • Wingspan Range: 24-25 cm (9.5-10 in)
  • Wing Shape: Rounded-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Fan-shaped Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Brown
  • Under Tail: Gray
  • Leg Color: Pink-brown
Breeding
  • Breeding Location: Forest edge, Open landscapes, Grassland with scattered trees
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Some promiscuous
  • Breeding Population: Widespread, Abundant
  • Egg Color: Blue or green with gray and brown spots
  • Number of Eggs: 3 - 7
  • Incubation Days: 10 - 14
  • Egg Incubator: Both sexes
  • Nest Material: Grass, straw, weeds, cotton, bits of debris, twigs, and feathers.
  • Migration: Nonmigratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Naked and helpless. Chicks fledge in 14 days.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Moineau domestique (French)
  • Gorrión domestico, Gorrión común (Spanish)
  • Although the female House Sparrow looks much like the American sparrows, her stocky build, short tail, plain brown crown and straw yellow-colored eyestripe distinguish her.
  • The female Dickcissel closely resembles the female House Sparrow, but its bill is longer and thinner, and it often has a tinge of real yellow in the eyestripe, behind the bill, and on the chest.
  • Harris's Sparrow has a black bib and chest, but it lacks the chestnut on the back of the head and the gray crown.
  • Chickadees have white cheeks and black bibs, but they lack the chestnut head and gray crown, are much slimmer birds, and often hang upside down to get food.

Conservation Status

Competition from the House Sparrow for cavity nests can cause decline of some native species. House Sparrow populations declining across most of range. You can help scientists learn more about this species by participating in the Celebrate Urban Birds! project.

Habitat

Sources used to Construct this Page:

Found in human modified habitats: farms, residential, and urban areas.
  • Lowther, P. E. and C. L. Cink. 1992. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus). In The Birds of North America, No. 12 (A. Poole, P. Stettenheim, and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Food
Seeds, especially waste grain and livestock feed. Also weed seeds and insects.
Behavior
Forages primarily on ground.

Adult Male

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Adult Female

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Additional Photos & Video

Adult Female

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Juvenile

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Videos
 
House Sparrow - Dust Bath
 
 

All photos © 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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