The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is a bird of the sparrow family Passeridae.
It is native to most of Europe, the Mediterranean region, and much of Asia.
Its intentional or accidental introductions to many regions, including parts of Australia, Africa, and the Americas, make it the most widely distributed wild bird.
House sparrows are strongly associated with human habitations, and can live in urban or rural settings.
The average life expectancy of a wild sparrow is almost always under 10 years, and usually closer to 4-5 years. The oldest known wild house sparrow lived for nearly two decades; it was found dead 19 years and 9 months after it was ringed in Denmark.
In captivity, they have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. The oldest recorded captive house sparrow lived for 23 years.
The house sparrow is typically about 16 cm (6.3 in) long, ranging from 14 to 18 cm (5.5 to 7.1 in).
In mass, the house sparrow ranges from 24 to 39.5 g (0.85 to 1.39 oz).
It is a compact bird with a full chest and a large, rounded head.
Males are slightly larger than females.
The plumage of the house sparrow is mostly different shades of grey and brown.
Males have a grey crown, black bib, reddish-brown back streaked with black, and grey breast and belly, while females have brown, streaky backs and are buff below.
The house sparrow is a very social bird. It is gregarious at all seasons when feeding, often forming flocks with other types of birds.
It roosts communally, its nests are usually grouped together in clumps, and it engages in social activities such as dust or water bathing and “social singing”, in which birds call together in bushes.
The house sparrow feeds mostly on the ground, but it flocks in trees and bushes.
You can easily attract house sparrows with food and they may feed out of your hand.
House sparrows eat various kinds of seeds supplemented by some insects. Rural birds tend to eat more waste seed from animal dung and seed from fields, while urban birds tend to eat more commercial birdseed, weed seed, and human trash.
The house sparrow’s flight is direct with continued flapping and no periods of gliding, averaging 45.5 km/h (28.3 mph) and about 15 wingbeats per second.
On the ground, the house sparrow typically hops rather than walks.
Although not a water bird, the house sparrow can swim if it needs to, such as to escape a predator.
House sparrows use a set of postures, behaviors and vocalizations to communicate with others of their species.
Most house sparrow vocalizations are variations on its short and incessant chirping call. Transcribed as chirrup, tschilp, or philip, this note is made as a contact call by flocking or resting birds, or by males to proclaim nest ownership and invite pairing.
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.
Most house sparrows are sedentary, rarely moving more than two kilometers (1.2 miles) from their birthplace.
The house sparrow is monogamous, and typically mates for life.
The main nesting season is from April to August, although nesting has been recorded in all months.
Nest sites are varied, though cavities are preferred. Nests are most frequently built in the eaves and other crevices of houses. Holes in cliffs and banks, or tree hollows, are also used. Nests are built from dried vegetation, feathers, strings, and paper.
Most birds lay two or three clutches, but in a good year fourth attempts are not uncommon.
Clutches usually comprise four or five eggs, though numbers from one to 10 have been recorded.
The female develops a brood patch of bare skin and plays the main part in incubating the eggs. The male helps, but can only cover the eggs rather than truly incubate them. Incubation lasts for 11 to 14 days. After the eggs are hatched, both males and females feed the young through regurgitation. Young house sparrows remain in the nest for 11 to 23 days, normally 14 to 16 days.
The house sparrow’s main predators are cats and birds of prey, but many other animals prey on them, including squirrels, raccoons, snakes and even humans—the house sparrow has been consumed in the past by people in many parts of the world, and it still is in parts of the Mediterranean.
Though it is widespread and abundant, its numbers have declined in some areas. The animal’s conservation status is listed as least concern on the IUCN.
The bird’s scientific name and its usual English name have the same meaning. The Latin word passer, like the English word “sparrow”, is a term for small active birds, coming from a root word referring to speed. The Latin word domesticus means “belonging to the house”, like the common name a reference to its association with humans.
House sparrows have lived alongside humans since the Stone Age.
To many people across the world, the house sparrow is the most familiar wild animal and, because of its association with humans and familiarity, it is frequently used to represent the common and vulgar, or the lewd.
One of the reasons for the introduction of house sparrows throughout the world was their association with the European homeland of many immigrants.