Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

House Sparrow

Passer domesticus

One of the most widespread and abundant songbirds in the world today, the House Sparrow has a simple success formula: it associates with humans. Native to Eurasia and northern Africa, it has succeeded in urban and farming areas all over the world -- including North America, where it was first released at New York in 1851. Tough, adaptable, aggressive, it survives on city sidewalks where few birds can make a living; in rural areas, it may evict native birds from their nests.
Conservation status Probably has affected some native birds by competing for nest sites and food. Eastern population peaked around 1900, has been gradually declining in recent years.
Family Old World Sparrows
Habitat Cities, towns, farms. General surroundings vary, but in North America essentially always found around manmade structures, never in unaltered natural habitats. Lives in city centers, suburbs, farms; also around isolated houses or businesses surrounded by terrain unsuited to House Sparrows, such as desert or forest.
One of the most widespread and abundant songbirds in the world today, the House Sparrow has a simple success formula: it associates with humans. Native to Eurasia and northern Africa, it has succeeded in urban and farming areas all over the world -- including North America, where it was first released at New York in 1851. Tough, adaptable, aggressive, it survives on city sidewalks where few birds can make a living; in rural areas, it may evict native birds from their nests.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult female
  • juvenile male
  • adult male, nonbreeding
  • adult male, nonbreeding
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly while hopping on ground. May perch on weed stalks to reach seeds. Adaptable in seeking food, may take smashed insects from the fronts of parked cars, or search tree bark for insects. Comes to bird feeders for a wide variety of items.


Eggs

Usually 3-6, sometimes 2-7, rarely 1-8. Whitish to greenish white, with brown and gray dots concentrated toward larger end. Incubation is by both parents, 10-14 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave nest about 2 weeks after hatching. 2-3 broods per year.


Young

Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave nest about 2 weeks after hatching. 2-3 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly seeds. In most situations, great majority of diet is weed and grass seeds or waste grain. Also eats some insects, especially in summer. In urban surroundings, also scavenges crumbs of food left by humans.


Nesting

In courtship, male displays by hopping near female with his tail raised, wings drooped, chest puffed out, bowing and chirping. Often breeds in small colonies. Pairs defend only a small territory in the immediate vicinity of nest, chasing away all intruders. Nest: Usually in an enclosed niche such as cavity in tree, hole in building, rain gutter, birdhouse, nests of other birds. Where such sites are scarce, will nest in open in tree branches. Nest (built by both parents) is made of material such as grass, weeds, twigs, trash, often lined with feathers. Inside enclosed space, material forms foundation; in open sites, nest is a globular mass with entrance on side.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Permanent resident over most of its range, including throughout North America.

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Migration

Permanent resident over most of its range, including throughout North America.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Shrill, monotonous, noisy chirping.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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