House Sparrow: Medium-sized, stocky sparrow with black-streaked brown upperparts and pale gray underparts. Wings are brown with single white bar. Cheeks and crown are pale gray, contrasting with black throat, upper breast, and bill. Legs are shorter and black bill is thicker than in native sparrows.
Range and Habitat
House Sparrow: Native to Britain, northern Scandinavia, and northern Siberia to northern Africa, Arabia, India, and Burma. Introduced and established worldwide, except in Antarctica; common resident throughout must of temperate North America. Preferred habitats include cities, towns, and agricultural areas.
Old World Sparrows (Passeridae)
The order PASSERIFORMES (pronounced pas-ser-i-FOR-meez), a large taxonomic order of one hundred eighteen families of birds, includes finches such as the weavers, the New World sparrows, and the Old World sparrows.
The Passeridae family (pronounced pas-SER-ih-dee), which includes the Old World sparrows, contains forty-five species in eleven genera mostly found in Asia, Africa, and Europe.
There are two species of Passeridae in one genus that occur in North America. These two species are the familiar House Sparrow and the Eurasian Tree Sparrow.
The House Sparrow is known for being one of the most familiar bird species. This and a few other members of the Passeridae often nest around houses and have become so adapted to living with people that they are rarely found away from human habitations.
Members of the Passeridae are small birds with medium length tails, short wings, and medium length, strong legs and feet. They have fairly large heads with large, stout, strong bills suited to cracking open seeds.
Plumages of the Old World sparrows come in different tones of brown with gray, black and white markings. Their backs are typically streaked, and female often have duller plumages than the males. Bright colors are rare in this family and restricted to small yellow marking shown by a few species.
In North America, the House Sparrow occurs around human habitations from the northern edge of the boreal zone in Canada south to Central America (where they are rare), while the Eurasian Tree Sparrow is restricted to parks and wetlands in the Saint Louis, Missouri area and adjacent Illinois.
Neither of the two members of this family introduced to North America undertake migrations.
Both North American species are very social birds, the Eurasian Tree Sparrow nesting in loose colonies, and are rarely seen alone. Although the Eurasian Tree Sparrow tends to be more arboreal, both species mostly forage on the ground for seeds and grain, also taking insects.
Neither species of the Passeridae in North America is threatened, the introduced House Sparrow being one of the most common and abundant bird species in the United States and Canada. However in England, the House Sparrow is experiencing declines in numbers likely due, among other things, to modernizing of agricultural methods.
Although both species of Passeridae were introduced to North America around the same time (the 1850s), the Eurasian Tree Sparrow has never been able to establish populations very far from Saint Louis, its original point of release. It may not be as common as the House Sparrow because of competition from that species and because it is not as adaptable to living with people.