Measurements: 14-15 cm long.
Id: .Identified as a typical sparrow by its large head, thick bill, short tail and somewhat over-fast flight on direct, not particularly undulating course. Has a tendency to look dishevelled and grubby. Male has grey crown and cheeks, and underparts also grey. Female has unstreaked grey underparts and pale stripe running back from behind eye.
This irrepressible species is one of the world’s best known birds, and one of the
most numerous, too. It is familiar to city dwellers the world over as the
epitome of a small brown bird. It is perky and resourceful, and whilst it can
be outrageously bold, coming to feed on people’s hands and squabbling with
pigeons over bread in town parks, it has enough wildness to treat humanity with
caution. So, whilst the House Sparrow lives in intimate association with
people, it has never become domesticated or acquiescent. It has also kept its identity
intact, so that House Sparrows the world over have very similar plumage
patterns, in contrast to Mallards or Pigeons, which show endless variations.
The conjecture is that the House Sparrow first came into contact with people about
12,000 years ago in the Middle East, attracted by the activities of grain farmers. Presumably the birds soon found it convenient to breed close to their source of food, and took to nesting on buildings. From then on the House Sparrow came to rely on its human benefactors for food and shelter, and as people and their settlements spread, so did House
Sparrows. Through deliberate introduction, this bird now occurs on every continent of the world.
And everywhere it goes, it keeps close to people and buildings. It is hard, if not
impossible, to find an emancipated “wild” House Sparrow anywhere.
House Sparrows are sociable birds that live in small, discrete colonies. Once a young
sparrow has been accepted into a colony and has obtained a nest site, the course of its life will be set. It won’t be “thrown out” and it will have little need ever to go outside the communal boundary. Many of the important duties of its life, such as feeding, preening and loafing will be group affairs with close “friends”. The sparrow will acquire a mate and keep it, from year to year, within and outside the breeding season. Within the colony order is kept by a dominance hierarchy, in which the male birds with the largest black throat
patches are senior to the rest. Few small birds have such stability in their lives and in all their relationships.
Of course, behind this front of respectability House Sparrows have a darker side. Both
male and female are regularly promiscuous outside of their pair-bond, and it
seems that casual solicitation of males by females is a routine event. These
liaisons do not affect the pair-bond, but they do, of course, lead to quite an
input of genetic material to each clutch. A more sinister piece of behaviour
that is occasionally recorded is infanticide. This happens when one member of a
pair is killed during the breeding season; the widowed partner, male or female,
may then kill the young of a nearby pair in order to induce them to desert,
leaving the respective female or male open to a change in partner or fortunes.
House Sparrows do, also, leave their group territories on occasions – in fact, once a
year. In late summer, when grain is ripening in arable fields, the nearby House
Sparrows suddenly leave the breeding areas and join in large foraging flocks.
Few travel more than 2km, but they are nonetheless, briefly, away from home.
The birds remain on their feeding binge for a few weeks and then, in September,
they return. Among these returnees are a handful of young birds that are
applying to join the colony. They will be recruited mainly where vacancies
arise through the death of colony members. Females pair with widowed males, and
young males can occupy the nest sites of missing males. If the youngsters have
no success in acquiring mate or site they will leave the colony the following
spring, and try their luck elsewhere.
|Habitat||Towns, cities, farms, areas near people.|
|Food||Seeds and grain. Insects in spring and summer.|
|Movements||Mainly resident, but some late summer movements.|
|Voice||Various cheeps and chirps. Song is series of cheeps.|
|Pairing style||Socially monogamous, but both sexes routinely copulate with other members of the opposite sex.|
|Nesting||Usually small colonies, but will nest singly.|
|Nest||Ball-like mass of grass or straw with a roof and
with hole to one side. Nests in cavities tend to expand to fill the available
space. May build spherical nests in trees.
|Productivity||2-3 broods a year.|
|Incubation||9-16 days, by both sexes.|
|Parenting style||Young fed and tended by both parents.||YoungNest-bound, altricial and downy.Food to youngInsects.Leaving nestFledge at 11-21 days.|