Passer domesticus (house sparrow)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Natural enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Principal Source
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
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
- PASSDO (Passer domesticus)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
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 TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Passeriformes
- Family: Ploceidae
- Genus: Passer
- Species: Passer domesticus
DescriptionTop of page
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).
DistributionTop of page
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 TableTop of page
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/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|India||Present||Native||Not invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Myanmar||Present||Native||Not invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Taiwan||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Egypt||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Kenya||Present||Introduced||Early 1900s||Invasive||IPPC-Secretariat, 2005|
|-Ascension||Unconfirmed record||Introduced||1986||ISSG, 2011|
|Southern Africa||Present||Introduced||ISSG, 2011|
|Bermuda||Present||Introduced||1870 and 1874||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-British Columbia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-New Brunswick||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-Newfoundland and Labrador||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-Northwest Territories||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-Nova Scotia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-Prince Edward Island||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-Yukon Territory||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Saint Pierre and Miquelon||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-District of Columbia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-New Hampshire||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-New Jersey||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-New Mexico||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-New York||Present||Introduced||1852||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-North Carolina||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-North Dakota||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-Rhode Island||Present||Introduced||1858||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-South Carolina||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-South Dakota||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-West Virginia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
Central America and Caribbean
|British Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Dominican Republic||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Netherlands Antilles||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Falkland Islands||Present||Introduced||1919||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|French Guiana||Present||Introduced||ISSG, 2011|
|Czech Republic||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Netherlands||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Russian Federation||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Siberia||Present||Native||Not invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Scandinavia||Present||Native||Not invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|UK||Present||Native||Not invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|New Caledonia||Present||Introduced||ISSG, 2011|
|New Zealand||Present||Introduced||ISSG, 2011|
HabitatTop of page
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 ListTop of page
|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)|
|Wetlands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
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).
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 enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
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 SummaryTop of page
Environmental ImpactTop of page
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 FactorsTop of page Impact outcomes
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
UsesTop of page
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 ListTop of page
- Biological control
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
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 ControlTop of page
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.
BibliographyTop of page
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®ion=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
ReferencesTop of page
IPPC-Secretariat, 2005. Identification of risks and management of invasive alien species using the IPPC framework. Proceedings of the workshop on invasive alien species and the International Plant Protection Convention, 22-26 September 2003. xii + 301 pp.
ContributorsTop of page
- Reviewed by: Dr. Andras Liker Department of Zoology, University of Veszprém. Veszprém Hungary.
Last Modified: Monday, October 04, 2010
Distribution MapsTop of page
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