House Sparrow

Scientific Name: Passer domesticus

Pictures: (click for larger images)

Male House Sparrow at a feeder.  He needs to wipe the seeds off his beak!  (Birds actually do wipe their beaks off on branches, much as we would use a napkin.)  4/17/05
Female House Sparrow (either that or a juvenile male), at Campus Corner.  7/14/04
Male House Sparrow dust bathing!  Click to see the larger pic and find out who his dust-buddy is.  I guess they do this to get clean somehow.  The dust gets rid of excess feather oil, and they preen thoroughly afterwards.  Campus Corner 7/14/04.
A Male House Sparrow and a Male House Finch converse at a feeder near Hilgard & Le Conte while a Mourning Dove continues to intrepidly chow down.  4/23/05

-Photos by Jason Finley.
-Illustration by Robert C. Stebbins from "Birds of the Campus" (1947) by Dr. Loye Miller.

Description: Small.  5"-6.5" in length (beak to tail), same size as a sparrow... no wait, same size as a House Finch.  Breeding Male (in Spring/Summer) "has black throat, white cheeks, and chestnut nape; gray crown and rump." (   He also has a black beak.  In Fall, his plumage is more gray, obscuring those features, and his beak turns more brown than gray.   "Female and young are streaked dull brown above, dingy white below, with pale eyebrow." (

Sound: "Shrill, monotonous, noisy chirping."  Ha hah; that's from  Listen to a House Sparrow calling!  Link is to the sound page for this bird from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds

Commonality/Seasonality: Very common year-round.

Location: Found in bushes, trees, and the edges of buildings all over campus!  The males especially like to sit on a corner or edge of a roof, or other high place, and just chirp their silly heads off!  They can be found without a doubt anywhere people eat outside.  Lu Valle Commons, Campus Corner, the Bombshelter.  They will hop right up to you if you're dropping bits of food, but please don't overdo it.  It's typically unhealthy for birds to be eating human food (often unhealthy for humans too).  A few House Sparrows have even been known to infiltrate Ackerman Student Union (e.g., on the "Terrace" food court level with Panda Express and Rubio's) where they've apparently done well enough for a prolonged time.

Notes: This bird should be familiar to everyone, which is why I've used it as a size reference for other small birds.  Gregarious: Present in flocks.  You can usually get fairly close to them, especially when there's something for them to eat, and it's fun to watch their behavior.  Along with the House Finches, the House Sparrows are one of the bird species that are abundant in human-dominated environments.  Also sometimes known as the English Sparrow. They can be seen hanging out around some of the other more common species of birds, such as Pigeons, Brewer's Blackbirds, Mourning Doves, and House Finches.

HistoricalDr. Loye Miller doesn't mention the House Sparrow in "Birds of the Campus", unless I'm completely missing it.  Perhaps they weren't around here back in 1947?

Originally from Europe, the House Sparrows were introduced in North America around 1850 and quickly adapted to the environments of towns.  As happens often with introduced species, they cause some trouble by competing with native birds and by being a nuisance to some.  But they are still cute.



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