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Old World sparrows
House Sparrow
House Sparrow
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Inopinaves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri
Clade: Passerid clade
Family: Passeridae
Illiger, 1811
Type species
Passer domesticus
Linnaeus, 1758

The sparrows, true sparrows, or Old World sparrows in the family Passeridae are small passerine birds. As eight or more species nest in or near buildings, and the House Sparrow and Eurasian Tree Sparrow in particular inhabit cities in large numbers, sparrows may be the most familiar of all wild birds.[1]


Generally, sparrows tend to be small, plump brown-grey birds with short tails and stubby, powerful beaks. The differences between sparrow species can be subtle. They are primarily seed-eaters, though they also consume small insects. A few species scavenge for food around cities and, like gulls or pigeons, will happily eat virtually anything in small quantities. Members of this family range in size from the Chestnut Sparrow (Passer eminibey), at 11.4 centimetres (4.5 in) and 13.4 grams (0.47 oz), to the Parrot-billed Sparrow (Passer gongonensis), at 18 centimetres (7.1 in) and 42 grams (1.5 oz). Sparrows are physically similar to other seed-eating birds, such as finches, but have a vestigial dorsal outer primary feather and an extra bone in the tongue.[2][3]


The passerids are seed-eating birds, many being associated with humans, such as the House Sparrow. House Sparrow and Eurasian Tree Sparrow, in North America, live in small flocks.[4] They are often seen on or near the ground, where feeding typically occurs; many species are gregarious, and some are abundant.[4]

Several species have flourished in human-influenced habitats, and many are tame and approachable; many species, such as the Passer species, enjoy commensal relationships with humans.[4] In its native range, however; the House Sparrow is long regarded as a textbook example of beneficiary of human activity, is currently in sharp decline in parts of its native range.[4]

Apart from the White-winged Snowfinch, which extends its range into western Europe, the snowfinches are birds of extensive plateaulands of central and western China, and are among the highest-nesting of all birds, since they occur at altitudes ranging from 1,800–4,600 metres (5,900–15,100 ft).[1]



A sparrow chick in Italy


Painting of Black-winged Snowfinches

File:Chestnut-shouldered Petronia (Petronia xanthocollis) at Bharatpur I IMG 5262.png

Yellow-throated Sparrow

Some authorities previously classified the related estrildid finches of the Old World tropics and Australasia as members of the Passeridae.[5] Like sparrows, the estrildid finches are small, gregarious and often colonial seed-eaters with short, thick, but pointed bills. They are broadly similar in structure and habits, but tend to be very colourful and vary greatly in their plumage. There are about 140 species. The 2008 Christidis and Boles taxonomic scheme lists the estrildid finches as the separate family Estrildidae, leaving just the true sparrows in Passeridae.[5]

Despite some resemblance such as the seed-eater's bill and frequently well-marked heads, American sparrows, or New World sparrows, are members of a different family, Emberizidae, which formerly included the buntings.[6] The Hedge Sparrow or Dunnock (Prunella modularis) is similarly unrelated.


This is a list of sparrow species:[6]


The sparrows are indigenous to Europe, Africa and Asia. In Australia and the Americas, early settlers imported some species which quickly naturalised, particularly in urban and degraded areas. House Sparrows, for example, are now found throughout North America, in every state of Australia except Western Australia, and over much of the heavily populated parts of South America.[6]

See also[]


  1. ^ a b Clement, Peter; Colston, P. R. (2003). "Sparrows and Snowfinches". In Perrins, Christopher. The Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Firefly Books. pp. 590–591. ISBN 1-55297-777-3.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  2. ^ Bledsoe, A. H.; Payne, R. B. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. p. 222. ISBN 1-85391-186-0. 
  3. ^ Clement, Peter; Harris, Alan; Davis, John (1993). Finches and Sparrows: an Identification Guide. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-03424-9. 
  4. ^ a b c d Dunn, Jon L. and Alderfer, Jonathan (2011). National Geographic Completely Birds of North America. National Geographic Society. ISBN 9781426213731. 
  5. ^ a b Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. Canberra: CSIRO Publishing. p. 177. ISBN 9780643065116. 
  6. ^ a b c Summers-Smith, J. Denis (2009). "Family Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)". In del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Christie, David. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-84-96553-50-7. 

External links[]

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