Perhaps the most well-known wild bird in the world is the Old World sparrow. Agricultural areas are home to a wide variety of animals, and for others, human settlements are their only real home.
Birds like the Eurasian tree sparrow and the house sparrow are well-adapted to urban environments.
The Handbook of the Birds of the World lists 26 species, 17 of which are known to nest on or forage near human structures. Keep reading to find out more!
How is the Old World Sparrow Described?
One of the most well-known and common little birds, the Old World sparrow (Passer domesticus) is occasionally included in the family Passeridae (order Passeriformes).
Its original home was most of Eurasia and northern Africa, but Europeans brought it to cities and fields all across the world.
It first appeared in 1852 in Brooklyn, New York, and by the end of the century had made its way across North America. This bird is 14 cm (5.5 inches) in length and has a black bib on the males.
In tropical climates, house sparrows can produce offspring practically all year. The nest, which may hold anywhere from four to nine eggs, is a messy clump of straw and feathers that is typically seen in the eaves of homes.
The nest is constructed by both of the birds in the couple. Large sparrow populations were once maintained by leftover grain from horse feed, but as automobiles replaced horses, the bird population in cities plummeted.
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How Can the Old World Sparrow Be Identified?
Typical characteristics of sparrows from the Old World include a compact body, a mix of brown and grey colouring, a short tail, and a stout, powerful beak. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell one kind of sparrow from another.
Chestnut sparrows (Passer eminibey) are the smallest member of this family at 11.4 centimetres (4.5 in) in length and 13.4 grams (0.47 oz) in weight, while parrot-billed sparrows (Passer gongonensis) are the largest at 18 centimetres (7.1 in) in length and 42 grams (1.5 oz) in weight.
Physically, sparrows resemble other seed-eating birds like finches; however, they differ in having an additional bone in their tongues and a vestigial dorsal outer primary feather.
The preglossal bone gives the tongue its necessary rigidity when handling seeds. Seed-eating modifications include specialized bills and extended modified digestive systems.
What is the Taxonomy of the Old World Sparrow?
In 1815, the French polymath Constantine Samuel Rafinesque introduced the family Passeridae (then known as Passernia).
The real sparrows (genus Passer), snowfinches (usually one genus, Montifringilla), and rock sparrows (Petronia and the pale rockfinch) are the three main groupings of the sparrows according to the categorization used in the Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW).
Each of these communities is quite homogeneous and shares many characteristics with the others; Passer in particular.
In addition to Passer, numerous more African genera with similar body structures are included in certain taxonomies (often grouped with the weavers, Ploceidae).
The cinnamon ibon of the Philippines, formerly thought to be a white-eye, is a sister taxon to the sparrows as described by the HBW, according to a review of molecular and skeletal data by Jon Fjelds and colleagues.
So they divide the Passeridae family into two distinct branches.
There are many different families of small seed-eating birds, but early classifications of Old World sparrows classified them as near cousins of the weavers due to similarities in breeding behaviour, beak form, and moult.
The sparrows have been linked to Plocepasser since at least the 1920s when the theory was first proposed by P. P. Suskin. The finches (Fringillidae) were another group that the sparrows were placed under.
The estrildid finches of the Old World tropics and Australasia were formerly placed in the Passeridae family by some researchers.
Estrildid finches are small, social birds that live in large groups and form colonies to feed on seeds. Their short, thick bills are pointed at the tip.
They share similar habits and anatomy but exhibit a wide range of vibrant colours and patterns in their plumage.
According to the taxonomy proposed by Christidis and Boles in 2008, the real sparrows (Passeridae) are the only ones who should be flocking with the estrildid finches (Estrildidae).
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What is the Behaviour of the Old World Sparrow?
Many species of Old World sparrows nest in loose colonies, and most species can be found in flocks when they are not breeding.
The great sparrow stands out among other birds because it exclusively congregates with its immediate family outside of the breeding season.
During the off-season, they cluster together for roosting, rather than foraging, and these aggregations are often composed of members of a single species.
Trees, dense bushes, and reed beds are all factors in the selection of suitable sites for hiding. In Egypt, researchers have discovered that as many as 10,000 house sparrows can congregate in a single roosting site.
Some of the few passerine birds that take dust baths are the Old World sparrows. They dig a hole with their feet, hop in it, and then cover themselves with soil or sand by flicking their wings.
They also like to take a dip in the ocean or a snow shower in the spring. A sparrow’s water bathing ritual is very similar to its dust bathing ritual: the bird stands in shallow water, flicks water over its back with its wings, and then submerges its head.
Up to a hundred birds can join in on either activity simultaneously, and both are followed by preening and, in some cases, group singing.
Where is the Habitat of the Old World Sparrow?
Europe, Africa, and Asia are the native habitats of the Old World sparrows.
Some species that Europeans brought to the Americas, Australia, and other continents eventually became naturalized there, especially in urban and degraded regions.
For example, house sparrows have expanded their range to include most of the populous regions of South America, much of southern and eastern Africa, and all of Australia (excluding Western Australia).
The grasslands, deserts, and scrublands of the Old World are common places to find the sparrows.
Both snowfinches and ground sparrows are endemic to the Arctic and high alpine regions. The Eurasian tree sparrow is one of the few birds that prefers the open forest.
The abnormal cinnamon ibon lives in the Philippines’ cloud forest canopies, making it the most unique member of its family’s environment.
How is the Old World Sparrow Eggs Being Reproduced?
The average clutch size for old world sparrow eggs is 3-6 greenish-white eggs, but this number can range from 1-8. Usually, incubation lasts between 10 and 14 days.
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Even though most Old World sparrows are not colourful and their melodies are uninteresting, they have been kept as pets at various points in history.
Pet sparrows are challenging to care for since they need to be hand-fed insects from a young age.
However, many people are able to successfully hand-raise newborn sparrows that have been orphaned or abandoned. Thanks for reading!