House sparrows are an extremely common bird in the United States. They were imported in the 1850s as a form of pest control for growing cities, but they soon spread throughout the U.S. and Canada. Their tendency to feed on crops and flowers has earned them the ire of both farmers and backyard gardeners. There are an estimated 150 million house sparrows in North America.
Male sparrows are larger then females, with bolder plumage during the mating season. Males have gray crowns, white cheeks and necks, and sometimes a black bib below the bill. Females are brownish-gray, with a tan streak extending behind the eye.
Mating rituals for house sparrows can begin as early as January. A male will first claim a nest site, and will defend the surrounding area from intrusion by other males. He will then chirp loudly, hoping to attract a female's attention. If a female responds, he will chirp more loudly and more quickly. A female hopping on nearby ground might attract several males, who will hop after her and quiver their wings. Once house sparrows find a mate, they will likely stay monogamous for the rest of their lives.
Both sparrows will then build their nest, using twigs, straw, paper and grasses. The inside is usually lined with feathers. The pair will then begin mating near the nest site, often multiple times per day. Males will violently defend their nests, mates and young if necessary.
House sparrows can have as many as four broods per season, with four to seven eggs laid each time. The first batch of eggs is usually laid in March, and the female incubates the eggs for about 12 days. Both male and female feed the hatchlings. After 15 to 17 days, the fledglings are able to leave the nest, but the male continues feeding them. The pair can now have their next brood, and they may produce up to 25 young every breeding season. Older birds are more successful breeders, as they have already found their mates and have together raised a number of hatchlings.
- Photo Credit A group of house sparrows in Holland. Photos by S. Moeller.
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