Birds – The House Sparrow

Birds – The House Sparrow

The House Sparrow

The House Sparrow male

In this article we will see: “The House Sparrow”, birds, diverse and captivating, grace our skies with their melodies. From vibrant plumage to impressive flights, they captivate with endless wonders.

Birds – The House Sparrow

Brief Background

Description: Length: 15 cm; folded wings: 71-86 mm; wingspan: about 25 cm; tail: 51-69 mm; beak: 13 mm. Weight: 30 g.

Appearance and Behaviour

Male: Ash-gray crown; black band extending from the base of the beak to the eye; black throat; brown upperparts; brown-black primary feathers with reddish-brown edges; brown-black bar with fringed reddish-brown rectrices; gray-white underparts; black eyes and beak; brown-ochre legs.

Female: Duller upperparts and wings, lacking pronounced crown, throat, and band.

The House Sparrow

The House Sparrow female

The House Sparrow has become so accustomed to humans and their structures that it is now difficult to imagine a city, village, farmyard, or garden without its presence. It is part of our daily scenery. Popular among all, it keeps us company on the streets, in parks, or on farms, enlivening the still-empty boulevards from dawn onwards.

Friendly and resourceful, it brings a touch of nature deep into our urban areas. Yet, this little bird may not catch our attention at first glance. Its silhouette is so familiar that we barely take the time to observe the nuances of its modest but well-crafted plumage. Everyone recognizes its low and stocky appearance, with a round head seemingly directly attached to the body due to its short neck, and its feathered belly that seems to rest on the ground.

On the ground, the House Sparrow moves in small hops. Its flight is relatively heavy with rapid beats, and the bird prefers to stay close to the ground rather than flying high, although its typical perches are in trees, on rooftops, or facades.

The House Sparrow's voice sample

It also enjoys bathing in puddles or gutters and happily takes dust baths in dry soil to rid itself of parasites. Its basic call is a brief and repeated series of “pii-pii” or “piéép-piéép-piéép” with multiple variations. The bird is talkative, especially in summer when in communal roosts.

Food of: The House Sparrow

As a significant consumer of cereals, which partly determines its distribution, the House Sparrow also eats insects, fruits, and a few worms. Urban birds clean marketplaces and happily feast on the bread thrown to them. At feeders, they are not the last to arrive and appreciate seeds and water, especially during freezing conditions.

Reproduction of: The House Sparrow

In January, males start selecting singing posts where they spend increasingly longer periods. Then each male claims a cavity that single females are invited to visit, and couples are formed after several encounters. The House Sparrow prefers nesting in sheltered cavities, whether ventilation holes or the eaves of buildings. Outdoors, it nests in trees, constructing spherical nests.

The walls and foundations of the nest are made of dry straw and grass, with the interior cup generously lined with feathers. Both parents participate in nest building. House Sparrows can also nest in old dry stone walls, against tree trunks or ivy-covered gables, on concrete telegraph poles, and even on old agricultural machinery.

The House Sparrow’s eggs

They tend to form small colonies that can include about fifteen families, but each bird maintains its independence and fiercely defends its position.

In early May, or sometimes late April, the female House Sparrow lays her first clutch, usually containing 5 or 6 eggs. The eggs have a background color ranging from white to pale green and are speckled and dotted with blackish-brown, ashy gray, and olive, especially around the blunt end. They have an average size of 15 x 22 mm and weigh about 3 g. The young sparrows are incubated by both adults for 12 days, with the female taking on night duty.

Both the male and female parents provide food for the chicks. Initially, the chicks are fed a carnivorous diet consisting of insects and larvae. Later, they are fed seeds that have already passed through the adult’s crop. Like many small passerines, the chicks beg for food with their beaks wide open, emitting a plaintive cry and fluttering their wings.

The young birds leave the nest at around 2 weeks of age, but they continue to receive food for about 20 more days. The female then completes the rearing of her brood, providing each young sparrow with the eagerly awaited ration.

Once they are independent, the young birds gather and form flocks, while the adults embark on a second brood, followed later by a third brood.

Migration of: The House Sparrow

It is hard to imagine a more sedentary bird than the House Sparrow. Whether it’s snowing, raining, or windy, it clings to its street corner, suburban park, or stable all year round. It is a staunch sedentary bird, and its remarkable fidelity is to be admired.

However, some individuals perish from the cold, with ruffled feathers and labored breathing. Therefore, let us not forget that a handful of bread, rice, wheat, or millet will help them survive until spring. Their presence and song are worth a few cherries, especially considering that they effectively rid gardens of worms and maggots.

Distribution of: The House Sparrow

The House Sparrow is as cosmopolitan as can be. It breeds throughout Europe. It is found in Asia, where its breeding range extends to Siberia, and in India with different subspecies. It also breeds in the northern parts of Africa. It has been introduced and thrived in North and South America, as well as in Australia, New Zealand, and numerous other countries, including South Africa.

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A final word

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