House sparrow

House sparrow

Passer domesticus

Common name:

House sparrow

Scientific name:

Passer domesticus

Alternative common names:


The house sparrow is a small bird; it has a typical length of 16cm and a weight of 24 – 39.5g. It is distributed worldwide. They considered a nuisance species, an aggressive competitor with native birds, and an agricultural pest.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

Eurasia and North Africa.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 3.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Western Cape Province, Eastern Cape Province, KwaZulu-Natal Province, Free State Province, Gauteng Province and Limpopo Province.

How does it spread?

Human beings are responsible for the spreading of this bird species e.g. they spread through pet trade.

Why is it a problem?

They can crowd out native birds, disrupt food supplies, damage crops and transmit diseases. Large aggregations around buildings produce annoying noise and large quantities of faeces.

What does it look like?

Description: The plumage of the house sparrow is mostly different shades of grey and brown. The sex’s exhibit strong dimorphism: the female is mostly buffish above and below, while the male has boldly coloured head markings, a reddish back, and grey underpants. The male has a dark grey crown from the top of its bill to its back, and chestnut brown flanking its crown on the sides of its head. It has black around its bill, on its throat, and on the spaces between its bill and eyes (lores). It has a small white stripe between the lores and crown and small white spots immediately behind the eyes (post oculars), with black patches below and above them. The under parts are pale grey or white, as are the cheeks, ear coverts, and stripes at the base of the head. The upper back and mantle are a warm brown, with broad black streaks, while the lower back, rump and upper tail coverts are greyish-brown.

Habitat: Prefer areas that have been modified by humans, including farms, residential areas, and urban areas.

Breeding: House Sparrows form monogamous pairs for each breeding season. Nests are built from dried vegetation, feathers, strings, and paper. Eggs are layed at any time in the nesting period. One to eight eggs can be present in a clutch, with the possibility of four clutches per nesting season. Incubation begins after all the eggs have been layed. Both males and females incubate the eggs for short periods of a few minutes each. Incubation lasts for 10 to 14 days. After the eggs are hatched, both males and females feed the young through regurgitation.

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