All About House Sparrows - House Sparrow Facts & Information

About House Sparrow birds

House Sparrow Up Close

House Sparrows have a scientific name of Passer Domesticus, they are small and stocky birds that commonly inhabit suburban and urban areas across the globe. 

Measuring at only 12 - 15 cm in length, these small birds are often seen foraging the ground searching for food. 

Male House Sparrows have a much more distinctive look, perfect for the breeding season, than the females. The male House Sparrow has a grey cap and grey crown, chestnut brown nape with a black bib and grey underparts, and chestnut wings with white wingbars (Similar to Tree Sparrows). To tell male and females apart, females have a paler stripe behind their eyes with a streaky brown plumage and they are slightly smaller.  Adapted for cracking seeds and grains, they have a thick beak.

House Sparrows are noisy and sociable birds, in non breeding season, they will regularly gather in large flocks. 

With a whole range of loud chirps, you will usually hear a House Sparrow before you see it!

Do House Sparrows migrate?

House Sparrows do not tend to migrate from the UK, as a largely sedentary species, some may undertake short movements but this would be in response to changes in food availability or harsh weather conditions. 

Some House Sparrow individuals in the northern regions may move to areas with milder winters during the harsh weather, but these movements tend to be localised. 

Are House Sparrows endangered?

Two House Sparrows together

In the UK, House Sparrows are not considered endangered, however, over the past few decades, the House Sparrow populations decline in numbers and this has raised concerns. It was estimated that between 1977 and 2007 there was a drop of 71% in their numbers!

This population decline can be put down to a few factors including loss of suitable nest sites and foraging areas, pollution, Sparrow Clubs and diseases. Due to this decline, House Sparrows are on the UK’s ‘red list’ of Birds of Conservation Concern.

House Sparrow Habitats

House Sparrow Habitat

A highly adaptable bird, the House Sparrow is found in a range of habitats. However, these are usually human environments. 

An area they are most commonly associated with is urban populations. They thrive in cities, towns and areas where there are plenty of buildings, parks and other structures that provide nesting sites and a reliable food source. 

They can also be found in farm lands and rural areas, where they take advantage of the bards and silos as nesting sites. If there is an area where an urban area meets a natural woodland habitat, House Sparrows are often found here as it gives them the best of both worlds!

House Sparrow life span

On average, the lifespan of a House Sparrow is around 2 to 4 years. This can vary depending on predators, disease and habitat quality. 

So individuals have reached the age of 10 years or more, but this has been under optimal conditions with the right care and nutrition.  

House Sparrow Nesting

As a bird who embraces change, House Sparrows will nest in a variety of locations. 

They commonly nest in cavities in buildings and trees and shrubs and they will readily use nest holes and nest boxes that have been designed for cavity nesting birds. 

To construct their nest, they will use materials such as dry grasses, twigs, leaves, feathers, paper and any other debris they find. 

House Sparrow Breeding

House Sparrow Mates breeding season

House Sparrows will breed from early spring to later summer, and peak nesting occurs during these months. In regions with milder climates, they have been known to breed all year round. 

The male House Sparrow will use attractive songs, impressive display and aggression to attract a mate during the breeding season. Once they have found a mate, the female House Sparrow will typically lay a clutch size of 3 to 7 eggs that are pale blue with brown speckles. 

Across two weeks, the female House Sparrow is primarily responsible for the incubation period. Once hatched, both the male and female House Sparrows will take turns to feed and care for the young chicks. These young birds will leave the nest after 14 to 16 days but can continue to be fed by the parents for some time afterward. 

In one season, the female House Sparrow will produce multiple breeds meaning a higher chance of reproductive success. 

What do House Sparrows eat?

House Sparrows have a very varied diet and they primarily eat seeds and grains but will also snack on other types of food. 

House Sparrows main diet consists of seeds and grains like millet, sunflower seeds, wheat and corn. However, you will often see these birds foraging for food snacks around human habitations, they look for bread crumbs, leftover food, and cracked corn.

During the breeding season, protein rich food, such as insects, become an important part of their diet that they need to raise their young. 

House Sparrow predators 

Facing threats from many species, this is one of the reasons the numbers of House Sparrows in the UK has declined.

The most common predators they face are birds of prey that hunt House Sparrows whilst they are roosting or foraging for food, domestic cats in urban and suburban areas, and small to medium sized mammals such as weasels and foxes may sometimes target House Sparrows.

Surprisingly, one predator can be other birds such as magpies and jays, they may attack House Sparrows when competing for resources. 

How to attract House Sparrows to your garden?

House Sparrow on a bird feeder

With the correct approach, attracting House Sparrows to your garden is simple.

One of the most important things is to offer a variety of seeds in bird feeders to attract them. As seed feeders, you can use millet, sunflower seeds, cracked corn or any mixed bird seed blend. Pick a feeder suitable for House Sparrows, for this species a platform feeder is usually the best one to get as they prefer feeding on flat surfaces. 

Provide a bird bath with clean, fresh water as they need this for drinking and bathing!

House Sparrow in a bird bath

As a cavity nester, House Sparrows will definitely appreciate nesting boxes in your garden. Install these nest boxes in sheltered areas such as the eaves of a house, on a tree of in dense bushes.

If you’re willing to get your green fingers on, you can plant vegetation in your garden to attract them!

Known for their love of foraging food, House Sparrow will love it if you maintain a messy section in your garden scattered with food and debris will attract House Sparrows that are looking for foraging areas. 

Five facts about House Sparrows

  1. House Sparrows are one of the most widely distributed bird species in the world, found on every continent except Antarctica. They have adapted well to human altered environments and are commonly found in urban, suburban, and agricultural areas in places like the UK and North Africa.

  2. House Sparrows are highly social birds that often form large flocks, particularly outside of the breeding season. They are known for their gregarious nature, frequently foraging, roosting, and nesting in groups.

  3.  The House Sparrow population are well adapted to urban environments and have thrived alongside humans for centuries. They are commonly found in cities, towns, and villages worldwide, where they utilise buildings, parks, gardens, and other structures for nesting, roosting, and foraging.

  4.  House Sparrows are cavity nesting birds and will nest in a variety of locations, including natural cavities in trees and shrubs, as well as man-made structures such as buildings, birdhouses, and even streetlights.

  5. During the Victorian era in Britain, Sparrow pie was occasionally served as a novelty dish, particularly among the lower classes. House Sparrows, and other Sparrows were abundant and seen as pests in urban areas, leading some to capture and cook them for food. Sparrow pie was typically made by stewing the birds with vegetables and seasonings, then baking them in a pastry crust. However, as attitudes toward wildlife conservation shifted and house sparrow populations declined, the consumption of sparrows as food fell out of favour.