Our Wild Neighbors

House Sparrows

Passer domesticus

A bird benefiting from life in the city, found in all Canadian provinces

Image of two House Sparrows, mounted on a perch, seen in profile facing each other.

Description of the animal

  • Small sparrow about 16 centimetres long.
  • Weight: about 30 grams. The male is larger than the female except during breeding season.
  • Thick bill and short legs. All the House Sparrow’s strength is in its bill and legs.
  • Plumage all shades of grey and brown.
  • Black and brown stripes on its back, chestnut-coloured shoulders, white spot at the back of the eye, dark brown tail. During breeding season, the male becomes handsomer as its plumage takes on more contrasting colours. It has a grey crown bordered by dark brown. The size of its black throat patch indicates dominance.

Habitat and needs

  • Often lives in a group.
  • Usually moves about by hopping.
  • Likes taking baths.
  • Feeds primarily on seeds and plants; on rare occasions, can eat insects. The House Sparrow keeps a significant amount of gravel in its gizzard to help with digestion.
  • Enjoys urban settings. The House Sparrow makes its nest in the clefts of buildings, trees, and sculptures.
  • Nests three times per season. When one brooding period ends, the Sparrow seeks a new home, not hesitating to take over another bird’s nest.
  • Often spends the winter in Canada, making it the first on the scene at nesting sites. It makes life difficult for tree swallows and bluebirds. In contrast, finches are its fierce competitors.

Relationship

  • The House Sparrow originated in Eurasia and North Africa. It was introduced in Brooklyn, near New York City, in 1851 to control insect pests and brighten the lives of homesick immigrants. Its great success led to additional introductions in the American West in the early 1870s. This species can now be found everywhere, except in the Far North.
  • The House Sparrow is a good research subject, particularly in population trend and pest control studies.
  • At times, it is considered a problem species, as it competes with indigenous birds and eats lots of seeds.

Living with them

  • The House Sparrow is attracted to birdfeeders, primarily those with millet, sunflower seeds, and sorghum. It also eats the seeds of weeds.
  • Install a pendulum nesting box to prevent the House Sparrow from displacing other nesting birds like the Bluebird and Tree Swallow.

Participating cities where this animal has been seen