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House Sparrow

Scientific Name: Passer domesticus House Sparrow Facts - House Sparrow Information
Size: 14 - 15cm
Weight: 34g
Wingspan: 24cm
Lifespan: 3 years
Breeding: May
Number of Clutches: 2-3
Number of Eggs: 4-5
Incubation Days: 13-15
Fledg Days: 15-17
Habitat: Urban, suburban and agricultural areas.
Distribution: Europe, n Africa, Asia, INTRODUCED: Americas, s&e Africa, Australia

Description

Once an extremely familiar and common garden bird the House Sparrow has seen a huge decline in numbers right across the country even to the extent that it has completely disappeared in some areas. It is still, however, one of the most easily identified and best known wild birds if you are lucky enough to have them as visitors or residents. The male House Sparrow has, predominantly, brown upper parts with thin, buff and dark grey to black striping on its back, wings and tail and a small white wing bar, with mostly grey under parts. The head is chestnut brown on the rear half with a grey crown, white cheeks and black eye stripe and bib. The female and juvenile are paler in appearance, lack the multi-coloured head and have a straw coloured stripe behind the eye. The legs are pale brown whilst the bill is black in the summer and yellow in the winter. House Sparrows are very sociable birds and prefer to nest in small colonies where the size of the males black bib indicates its standing within the community, the larger the bib the more dominant the bird.

Nest

House Sparrows live in colonies around people and so nest in holes or crevices in buildings, or among creepers growing on buildings. The nest is an untidy domed or cup-shaped structure of rubbish: paper, straw, string. They will readily use nest boxes and occasionally oust tits that are already nesting. The eggs are white with grey or blackish speckles, smooth and glossy. They are about 23 mm by 16 mm, and weigh about 3 grams (or one tenth of an ounce). The male and female take turns incubating the eggs, but the female does most of the incubating. Both adults feed the young.

Feeding

The House Sparrow's diet is diverse: seeds, nuts, berries, buds, insects and scraps, etc. The House Sparrow will eat just about anything: sunflower hearts, high energy seed, peanuts, suet, kitchen scraps, etc. In fact, as reported in the BTO's Garden Birdwatch Handbook, research in the 1940 found 838 different types of food in the dissected stomachs of house sparrows. During the spring, House Sparrows often damage plants with yellow flowers, such as crocus, for reasons that are not yet known.

Legal Status

The House Sparrow is a Red List species owing to a serious decline (over 60%) in its population over the last 20 to 30 years. The reason for the decline is not known, though several theories have been suggested: methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) in unleaded petrol is affecting the abundance of insect for feeding young, autumn sown cereal crops leaves little stubble for them to forage in or spilt grain to glean, predation by the increasing number of cats, modern buildings have fewer holes and crevices where the birds can nest. Collared Doves compete for a greater share of the same food types as the sparrows. Recent research (2003) has revealed that 2nd and 3rd broods in suburbia are twice as likely to fail as in rural areas, possibly because insects are less abundant in towns later in the breeding season. While the decline in numbers is worrying, a more worrying prospect is if the House Sparrow population falls below a certain critical size then the reproduction and survival rates decrease and the species "loses the will to breed" - this is called the Allee Effect.

Voice

The song is simply an incessant collection of their calls, which comprise various cheeps and chirps.

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