- 5.9–6.7 in
- 7.5–9.8 in
- 1–1 oz
- About the size of a Song Sparrow or Dark-eyed Junco, but stockier.
- Moineau domestique (French)
- Gorrión domestico, Gorrión común (Spanish)
- The House Sparrow was introduced into Brooklyn, New York, in 1851. By 1900 it had spread to the Rocky Mountains. Two more introductions in the early 1870s, in San Francisco and Salt Lake City, aided the bird’s spread throughout the West. House Sparrows are now common across all of North America except Alaska and far northern Canada.
- The House Sparrow takes frequent dust baths. It throws soil and dust over its body feathers, just as if it were bathing with water. In doing so, a sparrow may make a small depression in the ground, and sometimes defends this spot against other sparrows.
- The House Sparrow prefers to nest in manmade structures such as eaves or walls of buildings, street lights, and nest boxes instead of in natural nest sites such as holes in trees.
- Due to its abundance, ease to raise and general lack of fear towards humans, the House Sparrow has proved to be an excellent model organism for many avian biological studies. To date, there have been almost 5,000 scientific papers published with the House Sparrow as the study species.
- House Sparrows aggressively defend their nest holes. A scientist in 1889 reported cases of House Sparrows attacking 70 different bird species. House Sparrows sometimes evict other birds from nest holes, including Eastern Bluebirds, Purple Martins, and Tree Swallows.
- House Sparrows in flocks have a pecking order much the way chickens in a farmyard do. You can begin to decipher the standings by paying attention to the black throats of the males. Males with larger patches of black tend to be older and dominant over males with less black. By wearing this information on their feathers, sparrows can avoid some fights and thereby save energy.
- House Sparrows have been seen stealing food from American Robins and piercing flowers to drain them of nectar.
- The oldest recorded House Sparrow was 15 years 9 months old.
House Sparrows are closely associated with people and their buildings. Look for them in cities, towns, suburbs, and farms (particularly around livestock). You won’t find them in extensive woodlands, forests, or grasslands. In extreme environments such as deserts or the far north, House Sparrows survive only in the immediate vicinity of people.
House Sparrows eat mostly grains and seeds, as well as livestock feed and, in cities, discarded food. Among the crops they eat are corn, oats, wheat, and sorghum. Wild foods include ragweed, crabgrass and other grasses, and buckwheat. House Sparrows readily eat birdseed including millet, milo, and sunflower seeds. Urban birds readily eat commercial bird seed. In summer, House Sparrows eat insects and feed them to their young. They catch insects in the air, by pouncing on them, or by following lawnmowers or visiting lights at dusk.
- Clutch Size
- 1–8 eggs
- Number of Broods
- 1-4 broods
- Egg Length
- 0.8–0.9 in
- Egg Width
- 0.6–0.6 in
- Incubation Period
- 10–14 days
- Nestling Period
- 10–14 days
- Egg Description
- Light white to greenish white or bluish white, usually spotted with gray or brown.
- Condition at Hatching
- Entirely naked upon hatching with bright pink skin, eyes closed, clumsy.
House Sparrow nests are made of coarse dried vegetation, often stuffed into the hole until it’s nearly filled. The birds then use finer material, including feathers, string, and paper, for the lining. House Sparrows sometimes build nests next to each other, and these neighboring nests can share walls. House Sparrows often reuse their nests.
House Sparrows nest in holes of buildings and other structures such as streetlights, gas-station roofs, signs, and the overhanging fixtures that hold traffic lights. They sometimes build nests in vines climbing the walls of buildings. House Sparrows are strong competitors for nest boxes, too, at times displacing the species the nest box was intended for, such as bluebirds and Tree Swallows. House Sparrows nest in holes in trees somewhat less often.
© René Corado / WFVZ
© René Corado / WFVZ
House Sparrows hop rather than walk on the ground. They are social, feeding in crowded flocks and squabbling over crumbs or seeds on the ground. House Sparrows are a common sight at bird feeders; you may also see them bathing in street-side puddles or dustbathing on open ground, ruffling their feathers and flicking water or dust over themselves with similar motions. From living in such close company, House Sparrows have developed many ways of indicating dominance and submission. Nervous birds flick their tails. Aggravated birds crouch with the body horizontal, shove their head forward and partially spread and roll forward their wings, and hold the tail erect. This can intensify to a display with wings lifted, crown and throat feathers standing on end, tail fanned, and beak open. Males with larger amounts of black on the throat tend to dominate over males with less black. When males display to a prospective mate, they fluff up their chest, hold their wings partially open, fan the tail, and hop stiffly in front of the female, turning sideways and sometimes bowing up and down. Sometimes, other males who spot such a display in progress will fly in and begin displaying as well. In flocks, males tend to dominate over females in fall and winter, but females assert themselves in spring and summer.
House Sparrow populations declined by over 3.5 percent between 1966 and 2010, resulting in a cumulative decline of 81 percent, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates their global breeding population at 540 million with 13 percent in the U.S., 2 percent in Canada and 2 percent in Mexico. They rate an 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Scale and are not on the 2012 Watch List. Nest holes in trees and nest boxes are valuable commodities for birds that require them for breeding. House Sparrows are fierce competitors for these, and their abundance can squeeze out some native cavity-nesting species. After becoming common in North American cities, House Sparrows moved out to colonize farmyards and barns during the twentieth century. With the recent industrialization of farms, House Sparrows now seem to be declining across most of their range.
- Lowther, Peter E. and Calvin L. Cink. 2006. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus). In The Birds of North America, No. 12 (A. Poole, Ed.). The Birds of North America Online, Ithaca, New York.
- Dunne, P. 2006. Pete Dunne’s essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
- Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook. Simon & Schuster Inc., New York.
Partners in Flight. 2012. Species assessment database.
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2011. Longevity Records of North American Birds.
- USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2012. North American Breeding Bird Survey 1966–2010 analysis.