House sparrow: appearance, nest, young bird

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Would you like to know how to distinguish house sparrows from tree sparrows and how to recognize house sparrows and young birds? Then read our profile about the sparrow.

House sparrow: appearance, nest, young bird & more in the profile

House sparrows are sociable [Photo: Rudmer Zwerver /]

The house sparrow or house sparrow ( Passer domesticus ) is one of our most famous songbirds. The small, brown fellows are real followers of culture and have adapted perfectly to human habitats. They cavort in settlements and cities and whistle happily from the roofs – so the familiar picture. In fact, our little house sparrows are no longer doing so well. For some years now, the number of birds has been declining so much that the species is now on the warning list on the Red List. How you can support the house sparrow in your own garden and everything else you need to know about the little songbird can be found here with us.

House Sparrow: Wanted poster

size Approximately 14-15 cm
Weight About 30 g
Breeding season March – August
lifespan Up to 14 years
habitat Wherever there are people
Feed preference Seeds, buds and insects
Threats Decline in habitat and food

This is how you recognize the house sparrow

The house sparrow can be recognized by its compact shape and typical strong beak. The backs and wing covers of the birds are striped brown-black and the underside gray. The crown and cheeks of the house sparrow are also gray. The species can only be confused with the tree sparrow. This differs from the house sparrow in that it has a chocolate-brown part and small, black patches on the cheek.

Note: Incidentally, there is no difference between ‘sparrow’ and ‘sparrow’. The two terms refer to the same group of birds. However, the scientifically correct term is ‘sparrow’.

House sparrow: appearance, nest, young bird & more in the profile

House sparrows are among the most famous songbirds

How does house sparrow singing sound?

The song of the house sparrows consists of an indefatigable “chilp”, which is continuously recited from a high vantage point. So the sparrows don’t just literally whistle from the rooftops. When excited or in danger, the house sparrows also utter wild shouts: “Tscherret-herett”.

A sound recording of the house sparrow song can be found here:

How do female and male house sparrows differ?

Female house sparrows are not quite as conspicuous as the males. While in the males a brown stripe behind the eyes frames the light cheeks, the face of the females is almost uniformly gray. In addition, the throat of the males is adorned with a black stripe that extends into a more or less large patch on the chest. This mark is also missing from the female specimens.

Note: By the way, the black patch on the chest of the males serves as a status symbol. Its size is related to the fighting strength of the males and thus also to its dominance over others. In the plain dress – outside the breeding season – the breast spot is reduced and the males appear a little more inconspicuous.

House sparrow: appearance, nest, young bird & more in the profile

Female house sparrows (right) are much simpler than the male specimens [Photo: Steve Byland /]

How do you recognize a young house sparrow?

Young house sparrows are the image of their mothers. The male juveniles do not show any of the typical characteristics either. However, the young house sparrows change into their adult plumage quite early. Less than eight weeks after hatching, they lose their youthful appearance and shine in their finished plumage before winter sets in.

House sparrow: appearance, nest, young bird & more in the profile

Young house sparrows look like females [Photo: Rob Christiaans /]

What do house sparrow eggs look like?

House sparrows lay between three and six eggs per nest. These are about 1.5 centimeters tall, of a white or gray base color and covered with brown speckles. The eggs are laid in a spherical, messy nest made of stalks, twigs, leaves, and other available materials. The nest cavity is also padded with soft feathers.

House sparrow: appearance, nest, young bird & more in the profile

House sparrows lay 3 to 6 eggs [Photo: Alan B. Schroeder /]

Which habitat does the house sparrow prefer?

As pronounced cultural followers, house sparrows can only be found in the vicinity of human settlements. Agricultural areas with adjacent fields where the little sparrows can look for seeds are best. There are also many old buildings in the country where the sparrows find holes and niches to breed. But house sparrows can also be found in large cities that breed in facades and climbing plants.

Where does the house sparrow build its nest?

House sparrows are very creative when it comes to choosing a nesting site. In nature, they mainly nest in tree hollows or old nests of woodpeckers or swallows. As a culture follower, however, they mainly breed in building or wall niches, under roof tiles or in nesting boxes. The size of the nest depends on the available cave and can vary greatly. From time to time free-standing nests are also built. House sparrows also like to breed in smaller colonies.

House sparrow: appearance, nest, young bird & more in the profile

House sparrows breed everywhere [Photo: Marut Sayannikroth /]

When is the house sparrow’s breeding season?

The breeding season of the house sparrow begins in March and can continue until late August. During this time, a breeding pair can raise up to four broods. The eggs are incubated for about two weeks after being laid. In cold temperatures, however, the incubation period can be longer. After hatching, the young birds are fed in the nest for about 14 days. Then the little sparrows leave the nest, but are still supplied with food. After another two weeks they are completely independent.

Where does the house sparrow spend the winter?

House sparrows are resident birds. This means that they also spend the winter in their breeding area and never stray far from their territories. In winter, however, the birds come together to form large flocks that go for food together.

House sparrow: appearance, nest, young bird & more in the profile

House sparrows also spend the winter with us [Photo: Maslov Dmitry /]

Note: House sparrows form lifelong singles. Once a breeding pair has found each other, they stay together for many years and often return to the same nesting site every year.

Support the house sparrow in the garden: this is how it works

The increasing decline in house sparrows is alarming. As a result of the renovation of old and new buildings, the birds have fewer and fewer nesting opportunities. And the food supply is also decreasing. Find out here how you can support the house sparrow in your own garden.

What do house sparrows eat?

If you want to help with food, the question arises: What do the sparrows eat? The small house sparrows feed mainly on seeds. Throughout the year they can be seen in small groups looking for food in fields. But leaf buds and smaller insects are also used. During the rearing of their young, the sparrows mainly collect insects, as the proteins they contain are important for the development of the young birds.

House sparrow: appearance, nest, young bird & more in the profile

House sparrows also like to hunt insects, especially during the breeding season

If you want to set up a feeding station for the birds in winter, you should use a classic grain feed. Sunflower seeds and other seeds are gladly accepted. But the sparrows do not disdain mealworms either. A good choice for winter feeding is our Plantura litter for wild birds with many high-quality seeds that offer plenty of energy for the cold season.

Which nest boxes are suitable for house sparrows?

House sparrows are happy to accept nesting boxes. Classic full-cave nesting boxes with a round entrance hole on the front are suitable for them. This entrance hole should be 32 mm wide. Since house sparrows are colony breeders and like to get together in smaller groups, it is advisable to set up several nesting boxes in the immediate vicinity.

Tip: You can easily build such a nesting box yourself and easily turn it into a handicraft project for the whole family.

House sparrow: appearance, nest, young bird & more in the profile

Nest boxes are also gladly accepted [Photo: Matthias Meckel /]

How can you additionally support the house sparrow?

During the breeding season, house sparrows increasingly depend on insects for food. Avoid using chemical sprays, which not only reduce the supply of insects, but can also poison the birds through the food chain. You can also bring new life into your home by creating an insect-friendly garden. Creating a flower meadow, for example with our Plantura beneficial insect magnet, offers new living space for a large number of small gardeners and also makes our feathered friends happy.

Incidentally, perennials are particularly helpful if they are only cut back after winter. The seeds of the thistle, adder’s head or the wild teasel and the insects that overwinter in the stems are natural sources of food for the birds.

Numerous other bird species, such as the white wagtail or the house martin, enjoy a lively and bustling garden.

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