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House Sparrow     sparrow

 Identification and Pictures

House Sparrow (Passer Domesticus)

house sparrowHouse sparrows are stocky birds with large heads, and short tails, about 5 3/4 to 6 3/4 inches.  Males have a chestnut back, and head, and a black throat.  The cheeks, crown, and under parts are pale gray.  The nape is a chestnut or brown color.  In the summer the bill is blue-black and in the winter it is brownish.

Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

House Sparrow male & femaleFemales, and the young do not have the black throat, and they are a grayish color below.

House sparrows are often seen in large flocks, which will roost in evergreens or other bushes.  The flocks will often include house finches, especially in autumn or winter. 

There are many varieties of sparrows.  Most people in North America are familiar with House sparrows, Song sparrows, and White-crowned sparrows.  House sparrows were imported from England in the 1850s.  Many people dislike them because they can take over nesting sites other song birds might use.   

Range and Habitat

House sparrows range across North America and can be found in cities, farmlands or in the country, forming into large flocks.  They live mostly where humans live.  It is estimated that the population is around 150,000,000 birds.  The numbers get lower each year.

Breeding and NestingHouse Sparrow egg

House sparrows are usually monogamous birds.  Males will sit on a perch outside the nesting site singing their nest-site call trying to attract the female.  If she comes near he will quiver his wings and call louder.  He will then go in and out of the nest cavity.  If she goes in, the two will probably pair off.  Generally they build cup-shaped nests in trees, bushes, under eves, and in other places.  The nest is built with grass, twigs, and leaves, and lined with feathers.  Because they tend to take over bird houses meant for other birds some people resort to trapping them in an attempt to get rid of them.  Unlike most birds in the U.S. House sparrows are not protected by law.  They nest in colonies, but both sexes will choose and defend a small territory.  Females lay 5 to 6 speckled or spotted eggs.  The spots can be brown, purple or black.  Their eggs are whitish but can be tinged greenish or blue-gray.  The eggs are incubated for around 10 to 14 days.  Both parents will feed the young which will leave the nest in about 2 weeks.  They will stay around the parents for another 7 to 10 days, and then join flocks of other young birds.  They may have 2 to 3 broods in season.

Song and Call

The chir-up and twittering song of the House sparrow can be heard all year long.  Both sexes will sing.

House Sparrow

Food and Feeding

Natural foods for sparrows are insects, seeds, and berries.  They are frequent visitors to backyard feeders.  There will often be more birds then there is room for, but they are happy to scratch the ground for seeds falling from the feeders.

birds and waterLike most birds that come to feeders they are also attracted to water.  As shown here, even a dog water dish can be popular. 


For more on food and feeding click here.
For more on feeders click here.

To learn about other favorite birds click here.

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