Scientific Name: Passer Domesticus
House Sparrows are the most abundant songbirds in North America and the most widely distributed birds on the planet. These small, round birds are frequent visitors to suburban backyard bird feeders, and are commonly found in school yards, fast food parking lots, and street corners. Imported from England to North America between 1850 and 1886 in an effort to control insects, the House Sparrow (originally called the “English sparrow”) has grown in population to over 150 million. It’s aggressive nesting behavior and adaptability to humankind, has led to this increase and given them an unpopular status among many birding enthusiast.
In the US and Canada, the House Sparrow is one of only three birds not provided legal protection. House Sparrows are known to be very territorial, driving indigenous cavity nesting birds away by smashing their eggs, and taking over their nest. House Sparrows are considered a major factor in the decline of bluebirds and other native cavity nesters in North America.
House sparrows are colonial nesters, prefering multi-chamber bird houses and not deterred from nesting by activity near their nest. They occupy their nests for shelter throughout the year, even after the fledglings have moved on. They primarily eat seeds, but also eat insects and have adapted to eating rubbish. They take dust baths almost every day, and commonly drink from bird baths and fountains. The House Sparrow is a member of the weaver family.
Head to Tail Length: 6″ – 7″
Distinctive Features: The House Sparrow is a stout, stocky bird, with short legs and a thick bill. They have a grayish brown underside, and brown backs with black streaks. The tail is usually three-quarters the length of the wing. Juvenile House Sparrows are typically light gray, with patches of young “fuzzy” feathers.
Male & Female Characteristics: Males have white or light gray cheeks, brown nape and a black throat, while females do not. Females have a plain light brown/gray chest, and a dull eye-stripe
Songs & Calls
The House Sparrow’s most common call is a short chirp. When other House Sparrows are nearby, it’s common for the birds to call and “chat” with each other. While the young are in their nests, the older birds utter a long churr.
|House Sparrow – call||
|House Sparrows – chat||
Nesting Behavior: House Sparrows prefer to nest in a cavity, but will also nest on a shelf, shutter, rafter, drainage pipe or platform. The male builds an elaborate nest, lined with grass, sticks, string, fabric, straw, hair, feathers or paper. They are colonial nesters, meaning their nest will likely hold several families. The female lays three to five white, pale blue or green eggs with grayish brown specks, and incubates for 10-14 days. The young sparrows fledge after 14-16 days. House sparrows only mate for a season. Eggs are incubated by the female.
Distribution: The House Sparrow is native to Europe, Asia, and parts of North Africa, but it has spread throughout the globe. It was introduced to the United States when a group of 100 birds from England was released in Brooklyn, NY. Today, the House Sparrow is spread from northern British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada and down through most of the US through Central America. It is most commonly found in agricultural, urban, or suburban areas, and avoids areas such as woodlands, forests, grasslands, and deserts.
Nest Type: Cavity, but adapts to environment
Breeding Season: The breeding season for House Sparrows begins early in the spring/mid-winter, with each pair producing an average of three broods per season, averaging 20 offspring per year.
Migration: House Sparrows are not migratory, but in colder climates they do move within a one to two mile area for warmer winter roosting sites. House Sparrows are aggressive birds and will force out other birds from their territories. They are flocking birds and will gather in the thousands to take over feeding and roosting areas.
Nest Facts: Recently-fledged juveniles form flocks in summer and are joined by adults after the breeding season ends in August and September. In late fall, pairs return to their nest cavities.
House Sparrows are primarily seed-eaters, although they eat some insects during the summer. They eat weed and grass seeds, waste grains, chicken feed, insects and spiders (about ten percent of their diet), fruit tree buds, flowers, crumbs and garbage. Nestlings are primarily fed insects by their parents.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Passer montanus, which is found only in southern New South Wales and central Victoria.
For more information
House Sparrow, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=House_Sparrow&oldid=300374407 (last visited July 5, 2009).
“by Bill Askenburg, Owner – New England Birdhouse. We specialize in fine architectural bird houses and feeders, offering handcrafted custom and stock replica bird houses and backyard birding supplies and garden decor. For more information or articles please visit our blog.”