House Sparrow

Passer domesticus

  • Version: 2.0 — Published February 1, 2006
  • Peter E. Lowther and Calvin L. Cink

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Figure 1. Distribution of the House Sparrow in N. America.

Based on AOU (1983), Godfrey (1986), and Thurber (1986). Densities from Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and Christmas Bird Count (CBC) data (Summers-Smith 1988). No data available for areas south of U.S.

Adult male House Sparrow, non-breeding plumage

Definitive Basic plumage; note black breast concealed by pale feather tips.  By spring (breeding plumage), this bib (breast feathers) will be entirely black. 

The House Sparrow is one of a few species introduced in North America with great success. Introductions elsewhere, its own adaptability, and a preference for habitats modified by humans have made this species well known and generally common, with a nearly worldwide distribution. Although often considered a nuisance species and an agricultural pest, the House Sparrow has proven well-suited for studies of general biological problems such as evolutionary mechanisms, temperature metabolism, and pest control. For these reasons, it has been studied intensively and is the subject of an immense literature, to which Summers-Smith (Summers-Smith 1963, Summers-Smith 1988) and Anderson (Anderson 2006) provide an introduction. International Studies on Sparrows, published irregularly by the Committee for Ecology, Polish Academy of Sciences, has had 14 contributions to a containing "Bibliography of the genus Passer," which now totals over 4,800 entries. In this account we have emphasized North American works. As a brief selection of the variety of more recent studies of this species, see work by Murphy (Murphy 1978a) and Weddle (Weddle 2000) on breeding biology, Gavett and Wakely (Gavett and Wakeley 1986) on diet, Liker and Barta (Liker and Barta 2001) and Whitekiller et al. (Whitekiller et al. 2000) on behavior and Selander and Johnston (Selander and Johnston 1967) on evolution.

Recommended Citation

Lowther, P. E. and C. L. Cink (2006). House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.