House Sparrow Fact Sheet

house-sparrow-female-i-th

SONG

A variety of ‘cheep and chirp’
One of the reasons they sing is to keep in contact with the flock they are in.

FEEDING

House sparrows are seed eaters.  They means they have beaks that let them crack open the husk and get the seed from inside.  Many birds can’t do this.

House sparrows eat a variety of bird food and scraps.

Some food they enjoy –

  • nyjer seed
  • peanut granules
  • black sunflower seeds
  • millet
  • Also a variety of kitchen scraps

House sparrows pick insects from spiders webs. They feed their nestlings on insects.

House sparrows steal food from  the beaks of other birds.

Sparrows use bird tables, ground feeders and hanging feeders.

DESCRIPTION

The male house sparrow has

  • brown upperparts that are streaked with black
  • grey cheeks, rump and crown
  • black bin

Female and juvinile birds are –

  • more softly patterned
  • do not have the grey on the rump and crown
  • do not have the black on the head
  • They are plainer than the male

cockney-house-sparrow-mal1

HABITAT

House sparrows spend a lot of time in gardens and near buildings.  They feed communally.

After the young have fledged the parents use the nest as a warm roost during the winter months.

(Note:  I wonder if that explains what I saw last November when I saw a sparrow carrying nesting material in it’s beak.)

The young born that summer use ever greens to roost in during the cold winter nights.  They roost together for warmth and to survive.

(Note:  We have a lovely evergreen hedge that is full of birdsong in winter.  The area is alive with birdsong in winter.)

SIZE OF BIRD

Length 14 cm ( 5 1/2 inches)
Wingspan: 20-22 cm (8-9 inches)

EGGS

  • 2-3 clutches of 3-5 eggs
  • The eggs are brown blotched white eggs
  • The eggs are laid any time from April to August.

INCUBATION

  • Eggs are incubated for 11-14 days
  • Both parents incubate the eggs

FLEDGING

  • Fledging is 11-19 days after hatching

NEST

  • Lined with feathers and bits of plants
  • The nest is built by both parents
  • House sparrows usually nest near buildings
  • House sparrows sometimes make a nest which is domed.  They make this of different grasses in a tree or a hedge.
  • House sparrows have been known to chase house martins and swallows out of their nests.  The house sparrow then uses the ready built nest to rails its young.

OTHER HOUSE SPARROW NOTES

  • You rarely see a lone sparrow
  • The house sparrow rarely lives away from humans
  • House sparrows can survive in areas as diverse as the subartic towns of Sweden to the tropical cities of Brazil.

I put some wire round my bird table a while ago to keep out pigeons and rooks – here is a photo of some sparrows at the bird table – but Birdy Cafe was empty when they flew in.

Sparrows at an empty bird table

Sparrows at an empty bird table

If you have anything else that can be added about House Sparrows please let me know.

24 thoughts on “House Sparrow Fact Sheet

  1. jeannie

    a pair of sparrows have sabbotaged my nesting box which had little jenny wrens in there. The hole is too small for them but they poked their heads in and dragged out bits of nest. Now one of them is sitting as though ‘on guard’ on the box ledge. why have they done this, your quess is as good as mine.

  2. Trish Post author

    Hi Jeannie, thanks a lot for sending this. I’ve put it as an article on my blog because I had read about sparrows doing something similar in 1912! Do you think it’s heridatary in sparrows to be bossy!

  3. Trish Post author

    A year ago I would have said ‘sparrows can’t interfere with a blackbirds nest’. After reading a comment from Jeannie who said she has sparrows that are stopping wrens from getting into their nest I would say that anything is possible.
    I’m not really an expert. I’m just really interested, but in all the bird books I’ve read I’ve never seen anything about sparrows wrecking other birds nests.

    I read of sparrows turfing out some martins in 1912 which I thought was a one off. Then Jeannie told me about sparrows stopping wrens from getting into their nest. Now you are asking if sparrows can interfere with a blackbirds nest. I just don’t know but I suppose anything is possible in nature.

    I think i will ask a wise old country gent tomorrow if he has heard of this strange behaviour.

    Why would sparrows want to do this. Is there a bird food shortage. Do sparrows, wrens and martins eat the same food. I’ll have to check.

    Isn’t bird life odd sometimes. Thanks for getting in touch. I’ll be in touch again when I have delved further. Maybe I should ask a big organisation like RSPB

    Can I ask what has happened in your garden for you to ask this? Best. Trisha

  4. Linda

    A Robin built a nest under my eaves trough this spring.
    I watched her sit on them and apparently they hatched as I found blue egg shell in the garden beneath. However, today…a male sparrow has taken over the nest and appears to be picking at something in the next or taking food out of the baby birds’ mouths. I can’t tell what’s going on. He sits on the edge of the next chirping away. He flies to a fro the nest.

    What do you make of this?
    Also…I haven’t seen the Robin come to her next in a couple of days.

  5. Trish Post author

    Thank you for sending this. I will do an article about it. I have a reader called Jennie who has told me about sparrows sabotaging a nesting box that had wrens in it! It is on birdtable news on 29th April.
    There is also a story from 1912(!) about sparrows evicting a martin from it’s nest. That is on my blog dated 31 March 2009.
    I have never heard of such a think until I started birdtablenews. From what you saw and what Jeannie and the 1912 Gent saw it does seemthat sparrows can get nasty sometimes. Maybe it is when food is scarce – I don’t know, but will see if I can find out more.
    Birds do attack other birds. Sparrowhawks eat sparrows and other birds, maybe this is a continuation. I do not know I am only jumping to this conclusion because of my other notes. Trisha from Bird Table News

  6. shaun

    Hi, I have just trimmed my privit hedge and came across a Hedge Sparrow’s nest, complete with 5 warm blue eggs. I left a small amount of overgrown privit around the nest, hoping that this would provide enough shelter. the birds are not sitting on the eggs full-time instead, they fly off and return now and then. I don’t want to go back to the nest to feel the temperature, as I fear this could lead to the birds flying the nest. any advise would be greatly appreciated, thanks.

  7. Trish Post author

    Hi, I don’t think there is anything you can do. You have done all you can to help the disturbed nest. You have left some overgrown privet around the nest. It is good of you to be concerned. A lot of people wouldn’t be concerned.

    Just leave them everything alone and hope the parent birds come back.

    It could have been worse. I have heard of people who have been cutting back hedges in summer who actually cut through the nest with chicks inside.

    All you can do is remember that you should not trim a hedge between the months of April and September. This is one of the things that is never spoken about, never read about. Garden centres never put notices up, birding programmes never talk about it.

    I don’t know if you feed birds, but you could start putting some bird food out in bird feeders – then the next time they have a brood you will be helping the parent birds keep healthy, and later on the young fledglings will be pecking at your feeders. Make amends that way!

    A lot worse things happen in nature. All you can do is – don’t cut back your hedge in the nesting season, spread the word about this to other people and start ‘thinking birdy’!

    We take birds for granted.

    Don’t feel too bad if the eggs don’t hatch.

    Trisha.

  8. Andre

    Today i have watched a male sparrow take the eggs from a Swallows nest (under our eaves) and drop the eggs on the floor and then flew off. So much for my thinking that Sparrows were gentle seed eaters. (Murder)

  9. Trish Post author

    Thanks for sending this. I always enjoy receiving comments – but this comment shows nature in the raw.

    It is amazing what you have seen!

    I used to think that sparrows were gentle as well. I would never in a million years have thought they would actually hurt / murder other birds.

    I have two other comments and one old story I have found about sparrows harming other birds or birds nests. Am going to put them all together in an article.

    These 4 observations about sparrows must change the way we think about sparrows.

    Thank you. Trisha

  10. Linda

    I posted awhile back about sparrows taking over a Robin’s nest in my back yard. Well they scared off the Robin as she never came back. The odd thing is though is that I never found any dead baby birds. I found egg shells on the ground so I know she laid them but where are the babies? The sparrows sat and picked in her nest for about a week and then they disappeared too. There is nothing in the nest either. I checked it all out. hmmm very odd!

  11. Deborah

    Yesterday evening I observed a male house sparrow ‘divebombing’ a male blackbird. On the first occasion the blackbird was simply foraging in the lawn, on the second he was singing from a branch at the top of the apple tree. Why would the sparrow do this? Is it a territory thing? On each occasion the sparrow made a swoop and went for the blackbird’s head, but did not persist, flying off again about his business. The blackbird seemed relatively unperturbed.

  12. Sherlock

    Hi

    Very interesting posts.

    I live near Northam Burrows in Devon. Last year I noticed a House sparrow chasing a Jackdaw for over 40 metres including 4 change of directions – quite a coincidence as the sparrow was less than a metre away from the Jackdaw. Today I was in the back garden and was watching a group of some 10 sparrows and a starling on a roof of a house behind mine. In the gutter a starling was playing with a bit of fluff or something. The sparrows sounded quite excited so I watched for a minute or so. The sparrows were mostly within 1 metre of the starling. Several times the starling hopped onto the roof near the gutter and the sparrows showed little sign of moving back. All of a sudden a sparrow flew in towards the roof from over my head (I think it was a female sparrow). She lunged at the starling, landing on its back and the pair fell off the roof towards the ground with the starling sqwarking madly. I could not see how far they fell but within a second the starling flew up to the house ridge and did not return to the gutter area. Several of the sparrows went down into the rain water gutter for a while. I assume that there is a roost or old sparrow nest there. We have many hedges close by and the sparrows are by far the most common feeders at a feeder that we have in our front garden.

  13. Trish Post author

    I have a Catetory on Bird Table News called
    DO SPARROWS ATTACK OTHER BIRDS. Here is the link
    http://birdtablenews.com/category/do-sparrows-attack-other-birds/
    If you read it you will see that people have observed sparrows behaving like thugs! They have beeen seen taking eggs from other nests and dropping them on the floor.
    Read all the articles in that Category. I wouldn’t put anything past sparrows. If they can steal another breed of birds nest and get rid of other eggs then, I suppose they could do it to their own breed.

    Have you seen this happen? I just wondered why you asked the question. Thanks for getting in touch
    Trisha

  14. char williamson

    yes i have seen this happen,we have bird houses set up we love our garden sparrows and love watching them nest,but this year we had sparrows killing other sparrows and killing all oue little baby sparrows as well.now all the sparrows have left their houses and our yard, it was a very sad thing to watch

  15. Trish Post author

    You have seen it happen! Can I ask where you live? The world of birds is so strange isn’t it? I know robins fight robins, and I have found out that sparrows can be thugs, but sparrows killing sparrows!! Also sparrows killing young sparrows. I wonder if some where house sparrows and some where tree sparrows. I wonder if there was a shortage of food and so they killed to get the food – but that does not really make sense does it?

    I am sure it would have been sad to watch. You think of spring as being a time of re birth not a time of slaughter. Think of all the other birds that are toiling to feed their young and watch the other fledglings as they visit your garden and grow and surive. Trisha

  16. Loraine

    I keep finding dead sparrows underneath my birdfeeder. Each time I notice dead sparrow has the same injury, the back of the skull and the brain is missing . We have cats around but this is not a typical way a cat eats a bird. Can you tell me what is going on here? It seems as if maybe a bird is going it. The wound is very percise like a beak pecked at it. Would other sparrows kill other sparrows like this or perhaps another type of bird?

  17. Loraine

    Trisha, I just read your reply to my first question regarding Bird eating Bird and I just found another dead sparrow it was just killed this morning and I heard nothing even though I was on my back porch while it happened apparently. It is the same exact injury to the back of the head and it appears to be an attack because nothing else on the dead sparrow has been injured or eaten. I am getting worried now. Is this a SH (sparrow hawk)?

  18. Trisha

    Hi, I have asked some knowledgeable friends and asked on some bird forums, but still no answer. To me a sparrowhawk would eat the whole bird. Maybe a big organisation like the RsPB would know. I can ask on their website. I have just never heard of this before.
    Can I ask where you live, I imagine you live in Britain?

  19. Trish Post author

    HI, I have had 3 people get in touch. Here they are –
    1. Hi Trisha. This is an interesting question. Cats or any predatory mammal would normally carry their prey away from the site of capture or kill so as not to draw too much attention to themselves. I doubt very much it is a cat. They normally asphyxiate or shake their victims to death and invariably bite their heads off. It could be the work of a stoat or weasel. These animals will bite into the skulls of prey to kill them off. It’s the way they dispatch of rabbits or rats. Sparrowhawks would not peck their victims to death. Their bills are not designed for such a function.
    Your killer if it was a bird, could be a magpie or other corvid. I observed recently a magpie coming to my bird feeder and helping itself to a young house sparrow. It grabbed the unfortunate sparrow then proceeded to batter it with its bill,oblivious to the frantic attentions of adult sparrows and other birds which had gathered to see the deadly fracas.
    I hope this sheds some light on your inquiry from Monahawk

    2. the brain has a lot of good stuff in it compared to some other bits of a body. A few animals will eat that first (or only) if there is enough other food around. Monahawk’s thoughts all seem like reasonable suggestions.
    Isurus

    3. A number of years ago I had a male Sparrowhawk which on catching its prey would crunch the skull and just eat the brain and leave the rest of it’s prey, the sound of it doing it was terrible.
    Chris
    -0-0-0-
    So sparrowhawk, crow, rook or any corvid. Seems like a bird is the most likely answer.
    Have you found anything out

    reading the answers I feel it could be a sparrowhawk. I think once they find a food supply they stay in the area – this is only a guess.

    I hope it hasn’t happened again
    Trisha

  20. Steve McDowell

    sparrows have made nests on almost every corner of our roof in the guttering, when do the young leave and how soon can we block the ends to prevent this happening again

  21. Trish Post author

    Hi, If you do block the ends of the guttering up could you put some nest boxes up to make up for the nests you are blocking up?
    Breeding starts in May and they could have up to three broods. Incubation is 14 days and fledging is about 15 days.

    It is best to take the nests down in September / October time . But really when you see the nests are very quiet which will be about September.

    Sparrows are declining so it would be a shame to take down nests that had young chicks in.

    Enjoy the new life that is around you!

  22. Steve muttitt

    Having been a lover of the house sparrows along with all wildlife, i have now refused to feed them anymore as they have killed 3 fletchling blackbirds in nest for what reason i do not know, so sad, they pecked them to death then threw them onto the patio.

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