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House Sparrow

House Sparrow: Food, Habitat and Identification


3rd January 2021

House Sparrow Description & Identification

Length: 14cm.

The House Sparrow has a grey crown, dark chestnut-coloured nape, black throat and off-white cheeks. Black, brownish and reddish streaks on its mantle, brownish-grey back, rump, and upper-tail coverts. They have a black streak through the eye and the remaining upper parts are off-white with a tinge of reddish and grey on the flanks. The flight feathers are black-brown with a reddish border, the wing coverts are black-brown, median coverts with off-white tips and the lesser coverts a rich brown colour. They have black-brown tail feathers with reddish margins. Their bill is black in summer and yellowish-brown in winter. They have brown legs and irises.

Females and the young lack the black throat and chestnut head pattern. Their upper parts are a dirty brown and their under parts are greyish-white. The only distinctive feature is the pale wing-bar. The House Sparrow often bathes in water and scratches about in dry ground, making small holes. Its flight is rapid and direct.

House sparrow call

The basic call is a loud ‘cheep’ with variations. A double ‘chiisck’ is strung together as a song and often emitted in chorus.

House sparrow nesting 

Breeding starts from late April onwards, although nesting periods are highly variable. They nest in holes or cracks in buildings, among creepers or sometimes in trees. The nest is a round, domed structure with a side entrance, which is built by both sexes. It is constructed of straw, plant fibres, dry grasses and rubbish such as string or paper. It is lined with hair and feathers. There are between three and five, or occasionally as many as eight eggs, ranging in colour from pure white to greenish-grey, with black-brown or olive and ash-grey spots. Eggs may vary in a clutch, some appearing whiter.

Incubation is carried out by both parents, although mainly by the female, for eleven to fourteen days. The young are fed by their parents, mainly on insects and leave the nest after about fifteen days. Multi-brooded.

House sparrow habitat

Cultivated land and built-up areas of all kinds, including city centres.

House sparrow food

Mainly grain and other cereals, also seeds, young plants, fruits, earthworms and insects.

Where to feed

Bird Feeders – Ideally above 1m in height

Table – Open topped or covered

Ground – Scatter food in the open or near cover