Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Passer domesticus
(house sparrow)

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Datasheet

Passer domesticus (house sparrow)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 08 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Passer domesticus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • house sparrow
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Aves
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Passer domesticus (the house sparrow) is a small bird, native to Eurasia and northern Africa, that was intentionally introduced to the Americas. Passer dome...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Passer domesticus (house sparrow); adult male in bird bath. Makawao, Maui, Hawaii. March 22, 2008
TitleAdult male
CaptionPasser domesticus (house sparrow); adult male in bird bath. Makawao, Maui, Hawaii. March 22, 2008
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Passer domesticus (house sparrow); adult male in bird bath. Makawao, Maui, Hawaii. March 22, 2008
Adult malePasser domesticus (house sparrow); adult male in bird bath. Makawao, Maui, Hawaii. March 22, 2008 ©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Passer domesticus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Preferred Common Name

  • house sparrow

International Common Names

  • English: English sparrow; sparrow, house; town sparrow
  • Spanish: gorrion; gorrion casero
  • French: moineau domestique; moineau franc

Local Common Names

  • Denmark: graspurv
  • Dominican Republic: Gorrion domestico
  • Finland: varpunen
  • Germany: Spatz; Sperling, Haus-
  • Iran: gondjeschk
  • Israel: dror habayit
  • Italy: Passero domestico
  • Netherlands: Europese huismus; Huismus
  • Norway: graspurv
  • Sweden: grasparv
  • Turkey: adi serce

EPPO code

  • PASSDO (Passer domesticus)

Summary of Invasiveness

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Passer domesticus (the house sparrow) is a small bird, native to Eurasia and northern Africa, that was intentionally introduced to the Americas. Passer domesticus are non-migratory birds that are often closely associated with human populations and are found in highest abundance in agricultural, suburban and urban areas. They tend to avoid woodlands, forests, grasslands and deserts. Particularly high densities of Passer domesticus were found where urban settlements meet agricultural areas. They may evict native birds from their nests and out-compete them for trophic resources. Early in its invasion of North America, Passer domesticus began attacking ripening grains on farmland and was considered a serious agricultural pest. Recent surveys indicate populations are declining.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Aves
  •                     Order: Passeriformes
  •                         Family: Ploceidae
  •                             Genus: Passer
  •                                 Species: Passer domesticus

Description

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The male house sparrow (Passer domesticus) has a brown back with black streaks. The top of the crown is grey, but the sides of the crown and nape are chestnut red. The chin, throat and upper breast are black and the cheeks are white. Females and juveniles are less colourful. They have a grey-brown crown and a light brown or buff eye stripe. The throat, breast and belly are greyish-brown and unstreaked (Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2007).

Distribution

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Native range: The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is native to Eurasia and northern Africa, occurring from the United Kingdom east to Siberia with the exception of Italy (Aguirre and Poss 2000).
Known introduced range: The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) has been introduced and is now common in populated areas throughout the world. House sparrows have been introduced into South America, southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand, in addition to North America. In the United States, it is established in all five Gulf States.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

IndiaPresentNative Not invasive ISSG, 2011
-Indian PunjabPresent
-RajasthanPresentCAB Abstracts
MyanmarPresentNative Not invasive ISSG, 2011
NepalPresent
TaiwanPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001

Africa

EgyptPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
KenyaPresentIntroducedEarly 1900s Invasive IPPC-Secretariat, 2005
MayottePresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
RéunionPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
Saint Helena
-AscensionUnconfirmed recordIntroduced1986ISSG, 2011
Southern AfricaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011

North America

BermudaPresentIntroduced1870 and 1874 Invasive ISSG, 2011
CanadaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlbertaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-British ColumbiaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-ManitobaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-New BrunswickPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-Newfoundland and LabradorPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-Northwest TerritoriesPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-Nova ScotiaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-NunavutPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-OntarioPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-Prince Edward IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-QuebecPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-SaskatchewanPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-Yukon TerritoryPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
MexicoPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
Saint Pierre and MiquelonPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
USAPresentIntroduced1880 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-AlabamaPresentIntroduced1880 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-AlaskaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-ArizonaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-ArkansasPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-CaliforniaPresentIntroduced1875 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-ColoradoPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-ConnecticutPresentIntroduced1867 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-DelawarePresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-District of ColumbiaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-FloridaPresentIntroduced1882 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-GeorgiaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-IdahoPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-IllinoisPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-IndianaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-IowaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-KansasPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-KentuckyPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-LouisianaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-MainePresentIntroduced1854 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-MarylandPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-MassachusettsPresentIntroduced1858 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-MichiganPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-MinnesotaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-MississippiPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-MissouriPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-MontanaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-NebraskaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-NevadaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-New HampshirePresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-New JerseyPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-New MexicoPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-New YorkPresentIntroduced1852 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-North CarolinaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-North DakotaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-OhioPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-OklahomaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-OregonPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-PennsylvaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-Rhode IslandPresentIntroduced1858 Invasive ISSG, 2011
-South CarolinaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-South DakotaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-TennesseePresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-TexasPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-UtahPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-VermontPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-VirginiaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-WashingtonPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-West VirginiaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-WisconsinPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
-WyomingPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011

Central America and Caribbean

BahamasPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
BelizePresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
CuraçaoPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
GuadeloupePresentIntroduced1999-2000 Invasive ISSG, 2011
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011

South America

Falkland IslandsPresentIntroduced1919 Invasive ISSG, 2011
French GuianaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011

Europe

Czech RepublicPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
NetherlandsPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
PolandPresent
Russian FederationPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-SiberiaPresentNative Not invasive ISSG, 2011
ScandinaviaPresentNative Not invasive ISSG, 2011
UKPresentNative Not invasive ISSG, 2011

Oceania

AustraliaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
New ZealandPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011

Habitat

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House sparrows (Passer domesticus) may evict native birds from their nests and out-compete them for trophic resources. For the most part, P. domesticus is always found around man-made structures and lives around cities, towns and farms. It is non-migratory. Along the Gulf coast of North America it is found in salt marsh scrub in disturbed areas (Toups and Jackson 1987, in Aguirre and Poss, 2000). Foraging habitat includes fields and agricultural areas (Aguirre and Poss, 2000).

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial-managed
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Wetlands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Biology and Ecology

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Nutrition
House sparrow (Passer domesticus) diet consists mostly of weed and grass seeds, grains and insects. Where available, it also feeds on cultivated grains, fruits and vegetables. Although it forages mostly on the ground in open areas, P. domesticus will perch on weed stalks to take seeds and search tree barks for insects. In urban areas, garbage constitutes a significant part of the birds diet and the consumption of grains by urban birds is less significant than in rural areas (D. Summers-Smith, 1963).

Reproduction
House sparrow (Passer domesticus) nests are built from dried vegetation, feathers, string and paper. Eggs are laid at any time in the nesting period. One to eight eggs can be present in a clutch, with the possibility of four clutches per nesting season. Incubation begins after all the eggs have been laid. Both males and females incubate the eggs for short periods of a few minutes each. Incubation lasts for 10 to 14 days.

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Tyto alba Predator

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Other: The house sparrows (Passer domesticus) association with human beings has been in large part responsible for its successful invasion of North America (Aguirre and Poss, 2000).

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Crop production Negative
Native fauna Negative

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Biodiversity

Despite their small size, house sparrows (Passer domesticus) are quite aggressive. House sparrows are known for displacing native species through competition by out-competing them for trophic resources. In rural areas they may evict native birds from their nests. Some species reported as being driven away by P. domesticus include the bluebird and the Carolina wren, as well as a variety of woodpeckers and martins.
Early in its invasion of North America, P. domesticus began eating ripening grains, such as wheat, oats, corn, barley and sorghum, and was considered a serious agricultural pest. Peas, turnips, cabbage and nearly all young vegetables are also attacked, as well as apples, cherries, grapes, peaches, plums, pears, strawberries and raspberries. Additionally, P. domesticus are a pest on poultry farms where they can consume large quantities of chicken feed.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Impact outcomes
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing

Uses

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The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) has been commended for feeding on insect species considered pests, such as moths, cabbage worms, and cotton caterpillars (Burleigh 1958, Sprunt and Chamberlain 1970, in Aguirre and Poss, 2000).

Uses List

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Environmental

  • Biological control

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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In some part of Europe, Asia and North Africa, the distribution of P. domesticus overlaps with the distribution of the Spanish sparrow P. hispaniolensis. Males of the two species have distinct plumages and can easily be separated. However, female and juvenile P.hispaniolensis are very similar to P. domesticus females and juveniles (Perrins, C. (ed) 1998).In some part of Europe, Asia and North Africa, the distribution of P. domesticus overlaps with the distribution of the Spanish sparrow P. hispaniolensis. Males of the two species have distinct plumages and can easily be separated. However, female and juvenile P.hispaniolensis are very similar to P. domesticus females and juveniles (Perrins, C. (ed) 1998).

The adult male P. domesticus is quite distinctive but might be confused with Passer montanus (Eurasian tree sparrow, St. Louis, Missouri). P. montanus has a black spot on the ear coverts and an entirely brown crown.

According to Gough et al. (1998), the female P. domesticus looks somewhat similar to a number of species of sparrows but has unstreaked underparts, tawny streaks on the back, and a large yellowish bill. The female Spiza americana (dickcissel) also has a large bill but it is gray--not yellow--and usually has some yellow in the face and a rusty patch in the wing.

Prevention and Control

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Preventative measures: The Bureau of Rural Sciences, Australia, recently developed a risk assessment model (Bomford, 2003) which has been endorsed by the National Vertebrate Pests Committee and may be used as the basis for future exotic species import applications. To assign an exotic species to a threat category, three risk scores are calculated: the risk that (1) an escaped or released individual would harm people, (2) escaped or released individuals would establish a wild free-living population (3) the species would be a pest if a wild population did establish. These three risk scores are then used to assign the exotic species to one of four threat categories: extreme, serious, moderate or low.

Passer domesticus has been assigned an Extreme threat catergory for Australia. These animals should not be allowed to enter, nor be kept in any State or Territory. (Special consideration may be given to scientific institutions on a case by case basis.) Any species that has not been assessed previously should be considered to be in the Extreme Threat Category and should be treated accordingly, until a risk assessment is conducted.

Physical: According to Glacking (2000), there are several ways to control P. domesticus and prevent sparrow problems. One is habitat modification. Roosting and nesting sites can be reduced by blocking entrances larger than 2cm. Buildings can be designed or altered to eliminate resting places. In some areas, building codes are modified and architectural committees review plans to reduce nesting sites.
Food sources can be reduced by removing edible human refuse, protecting small crops with bird netting and practicing clean livestock feeding techniques. Feed also needs to be covered to protect it from bird droppings. Bird-resistant varieties of plants can be planted.

More direct methods of control include shooting, trapping, poisoning and repelling. House sparrows can be shot with air guns and small arms containing BB's and dust shot. Trap types include funnel, automatic, triggered and mist nets. Trapping is generally difficult, as sparrows quickly learn to avoid traps, nets, etc. (Summers-Smith, 1963). P. domesticus can be repelled with noise, such as fireworks or alarms. Bird glues and Nixalite (trademark for "porcupine wire") annoy the sparrows. They can also be scared away with scarecrows and motorised hawks. Destroying nests can be another method of reducing P. domesticus populations.

Chemical: The standard poison used is Avitrol (trademark for 4-Aminopyridine). It is most effective in winter, when food is scarce and bait is readily accepted. Grain is typically used, however, it is important to be aware of any local poison control laws before proceeding. Naphthalene is an olfactory repellent.

Bibliography

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Aguirre, W., Poss,S. 2000.Passer domesticus. University of Southern Mississippi. http://nis.gsmfc.org/nis_factsheet.php?toc_id=211

Avibase, 2008 - listes d'oiseaux mondiales. Guyane française. http://www.bsc-eoc.org/avibase/checklist.jsp?lang=FR&region=gf&list=clements

BERDS (Biodiversity and Environmental Resource Data System of Belize) Species profile Passer domesticus

Bomford, M., 2003. Risk Assessment for the Import and Keeping of Exotic Vertebrates in Australia. Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra. http://www.feral.org.au/feral_documents/PC12803.pdf

Clergeau, P., Levesque, A., Lorvelec, O. 2004. The precautionary principle and biological invasion: the case of the house Sparrow on Lesser Antilles. International Journal of pest management 50(2) : 83-89

Clergeau, Phillipe; Levesque, Anthony and Lorvelec, Olivier., 2004. The precautionary principle and biological invasion: the case of the house Sparrow on Lesser Antilles. International Journal of pest management 50(2) 83-89

CONABIO. 2008. Sistema de información sobre especies invasoras en México. Especies invasoras - Aves. Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad. Fecha de acceso. http://www.conabio.gob.mx/invasoras/index.php/Especies_invasoras_-_Aves

Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO). 2007. The Birdhouse Network: House Sparrow Passer domesticus http://www.birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/bios/sp_accts/hosp

Glacking, J. 2000. English or House Sparrow. Lasting Forests. http://fwie.fw.vt.edu/rhgiles/speciesssm/engspar.htm

Gough, G., Sauer, J., Iliff, M. 1998.Patuxent Bird Identification Infocenter. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/i6882id.html

Hole., D. G. et al. (2002) Nature 418: 931-932

Levesque, A., Clergeau, P. 2002. First colonization of the Lesser Antilles by the House Sparrow Passer domesticus. El Pitirre, 15, 73 – 74.

Murray, C. and C. Pinkham. 2002. Towards a Decision Support Tool to Address Invasive Species in Garry Oak & Associated Ecosystems in BC. Prepared by ESSA Technologies Ltd., Victoria, B.C. for the GOERT Invasive Species Steering Committee, Victoria, 96 pp. http://www.goert.ca/documents/GOEDSTreport.pdf

Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle [Ed]. 2005 . Passer domesticus Inventaire national du Patrimoine naturel http://inpn.mnhn.fr/isb/servlet/ISBServlet?action=Espece&typeAction=10&pageReturn=ficheEspeceDescription.jsp&numero_taxon=4525

Perrins, C. (ed) 1998 The complete birds of the Western Palearctic on CD-ROM, version 1. - Oxford University Press

Sauer, J.R., J.E. Hines, and J. Fallon. 2003. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) Summer Distribution Map. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966 - 2002. Version 2003.1, United States Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD. Available from: http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/htm96/map617/ra6882.html [Accessed 1 September 2003] http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/htm96/map617/ra6882.html

Summers-Smith, ., (1963) The House Sparrow – Collins, London

The Birdhouse Network (TBN). 2001. House Sparrow Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERT)., 2003. Annotated Bibliographies on the Ecology and Management of Passer domesticus http://www.goert.ca/documents/Bib_passdome.pdf

The Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERT)., 2003. Field manual of Passer domesticus http://www.goert.ca/documents/InvFS_passdome.pdf

Varnham, K. 2006. Non-native species in UK Overseas Territories: a review. JNCC Report 372. Peterborough: United Kingdom. http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-3660

Contributors

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    Reviewed by: Dr. Andras Liker Department of Zoology, University of Veszprém. Veszprém Hungary.
      Compiled by: National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)Updates with support from the Overseas Territories Environmental Programme (OTEP) project XOT603, a joint project with the Cayman Islands Government - Department of Environment

      Last Modified: Monday, October 04, 2010

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