House Sparrow (Passer Domesticus)
Size: 14 – 15 cm head to tail
Weight: 24 – 32g
Wingspan: 21 – 25 cm
Eggs: 3 – 5 per brood
Nesting: Nests made using dried grass, hair, feathers, straw and sometimes string and paper
Population: Conservation Concern
Song: A collection of various cheeps and chirps
House Sparrows have lived alongside humans since the Stone Age and are considered the most cosmopolitan of all birds. Its Latin name is Passer Domesticus and is part of the Passeridae family, also known as the sparrow family.
House Sparrows are sociable birds and nest in holes, boxes and have been known to evict swallows from their nests. They were once a very common species in the UK but the population declined by 71% between 1977 and 2008, for this reason the House Sparrow is listed as a species of high conservation concern.
Male house Sparrows are chestnut brown with black streaks with a grey breast, rump and crown. The nape is brown while the eye stripe and bib is black. The size of the bib shows the dominance of the male within the community, the larger the bib the more dominant the male.
Females are paler and do not have the grey crown, white cheeks, black bib and eye stripe of the males. The females have a straw coloured stripe behind the eye and although they have the back pattern of the males they are much lighter in comparison. Juveniles are similar in appearance to the adult female.
Where they are found and what they like to eat
House Sparrows can be spotted all year round from the centre of cities to farmland. They tend to feed and breed near people, commonly taking advantage of food waste and scraps.
House Sparrows are absent in the Scottish Highlands and are rare in upland areas. Their diet consists of seeds, nuts, berries, buds, insects and food scraps. We offer a range of feeder mixes which these birds love.
House Sparrow eggs are smooth, glossy and white with grey or black speckles. The eggs on average measure 23mm by 16mm and weigh 3 grams. Breeding season starts in May for the House Sparrow with 3 – 5 eggs per brood. Most House Sparrow pairs will have between 3 – 5 broods a year depending on the weather and availability of food. Males and females take turns incubating the eggs for 11 – 14 days, then once hatched the young is fed by both adults. The adults feed their young aphids and small caterpillars for 11 – 16 days until the young fledge the nest.
Nesting and Territory
The nest is a cup shaped structure which is untidy and made using hair, dried grass, feathers, paper, straw and sometimes string. House Sparrows will readily use nest boxes and occasionally take over nest boxes which are already inhabited. Nests may also be in holes or crevices in buildings or bushes, it’s not uncommon to see House Sparrows slipping into gaps under the roof of houses to nest.
House Sparrows nest colonially so House Sparrow nests may be as close as 20 – 30cm apart! They are known to threaten and attack other species of birds that invade their territories. Juveniles won’t nest far away from their parents.
There has been a sharp decline in House Sparrow numbers since 1977 in rural and urban areas. While the decline is an ongoing issue, recent survey data shows an increase in numbers around Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Several theories for the decline include an increase in predator numbers and more competition for food. Continuous research into the species will help to identify the best way to prevent this species from declining so quickly again to help preserve the House Sparrow for future generations. A decline in species numbers is a serious issue; if the population falls too low the species could lose the will to breed, resulting in the Allee Effect.