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House Sparrow Facts

The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is perhaps the most widespread, commonly seen wild bird in the world. It has been transported all over the world by European settlers and can now be found on two-third of the land masses of the world including New Zealand, Australia, North America, India and Europe.

It is only absent from areas like China, Indochina, Japan and areas of Siberia and Australia to east and tropical Africa and northern areas of South America to the west (Summers-Smith, 1988).

It is thought that the House Sparrow originated in the Mediterranean and expanded its range to Europe with the growth of civilization. Through introduction to islands and continents it would otherwise not have reached, it has become one of the most widely distributed land birds in the world (Summers-Smith, 1988). Only 200 years ago, there were no House Sparrows on the entire continent of North America. Today, it is estimated that there are over 150 million.

Breeding habitat is mostly associated with human-modified environments such as farms, and residential and urban areas. Sparrows are absent from extensive woodlands, forests, grasslands and deserts.

The House Sparrow was once a very common bird all over the country, whether it was in a bustling urban area or a small hamlet. In South India, people even considered it a good omen if the House Sparrow built a nest inside their houses under the rafters or in a niche in the wall. Such was the bond between man and House Sparrow that it came to be classified as a domestic species with the scientific name Passer domesticus.

House Sparrows feed primarily on seeds and kitchen scraps where provided by feeding stations. However, insects such as aphids and caterpillars form an important part of the diet of young chicks.

House Sparrows reportedly lived and bred in the Frickley Colliery Yorkshire, England coal mine shaft 640 m (2100 ft.) below ground level, where two, and later three birds were fed by the miners and lived for three years. In November 1977, a pair nested in the mine and raised three young which did not survive.

House Sparrows rarely occur very far from humans and our structures. To move around on the ground, House Sparrows usually hop, rather than walk. Walking is rarely observed and then, only by older individuals.

The House Sparrow can swim when it needs to, for survival. The bird has even been observed swimming underwater when threatened.

While the longevity record for a House Sparrow is over 13 years, the survival rate for the young within a year old is less than 25 per cent. Over 40 per cent of all adult House Sparrows die each year.

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