sparrow

sparrow

[spar-oh]
sparrow, common name of various small brown-and-gray perching birds. New World birds called sparrows are members of the finch family. They were named for their resemblance to the English sparrow and the European tree sparrow (members of the weaverbird family), both introduced in the Americas. Members of both groups have stout, conical beaks adapted to seed eating. Among the many sparrows found in the United States are the song sparrow, the white-throated sparrow (or peabody bird), and the chipping, white-crowned, vesper, Lincoln's, fox, field, tree, and swamp sparrows. Sparrows are valuable to farmers in destroying weed seeds. Originally sparrow meant any small bird; the word appears in this sense in Greek mythology and in the Scriptures.

Small hawk (usually genus Accipiter, family Accipitridae), found in Africa, Europe, and Asia. Sparrow hawks are gray above, barred-white below, and sometimes have white tail bars. They eat insects and small birds and mammals. The American kestrel is also called sparrow hawk.

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White-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis).

Any of numerous species of small, chiefly seed-eating songbirds having a conical bill, particularly members of the Old World family Ploceidae, the house sparrow, and most members of the New World family Fringillidae. Some species of Fringillidae are common. The trim-looking chipping and tree sparrows have a reddish brown cap. The finely streaked savanna and vesper sparrows inhabit grassy fields. The heavily streaked song and fox sparrows are woodland dwellers. The white-crowned and white-throated sparrows are larger than most species and have black-and-white crown stripes.

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or English sparrow

House sparrow (Passer domesticus)

One of the world's best-known and most abundant small birds (Passer domesticus, family Passeridae or Ploceidae). It lives in towns and on farms worldwide, having accompanied Europeans from its original home in Eurasia and northern Africa. Introduced into North America in 1852, it spread across the continent within a century. It is about 6 in. (15 cm) long and buffy-brown; the male has a black bib. House sparrows breed nearly year-round in warm regions. Seealso sparrow.

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The "true sparrows", the Old World sparrows in the family Passeridae, are small passerine birds. Generally, sparrows tend to be small, plump brown-grey birds with short tails and stubby yet powerful beaks. The differences between sparrow species can be subtle. They are primarily seed-eaters, though they also consume small insects. A few species scavenge for food around cities and, like gulls or pigeons, will happily eat virtually anything in small quantities. This family ranges in size from the Chestnut Sparrow (Passer eminibey), at 11.4 cm (4.5 inches) and 13.4 g., to the Parrot-billed Sparrow (Passer gongonensis), at 18 cm (7 inches) and 42 g. (1.5 oz). Sparrows are physically similar to other seed-eating birds, such as finches, but have a vestigial dorsal outer primary feather and an extra bone in the tongue.

The Old World true sparrows are found indigenously in Europe, Africa and Asia. In Australia and the Americas, early settlers imported some species which quickly naturalised, particularly in urban and degraded areas. House Sparrows, for example, are now found throughout North America, in every state of Australia except Western Australia, and over much of the heavily populated parts of South America.

Some authorities also classify the closely related estrildid finches of the equatorial regions and Australasia as members of the Passeridae. Like the true sparrows, the estrildid finches are small, gregarious and often colonial seed-eaters with short, thick, but pointed bills. They are broadly similar in structure and habits, but tend to be very colourful and vary greatly in their plumage. About 140 species are native to the old world tropics and Australasia. Most taxonomic schemes list the estrildid finches as the separate family Estrildidae, leaving just the true sparrows in Passeridae.

American sparrows, or New World sparrows, are not closely related to the true sparrows, despite some physical resemblance, such as the seed-eater's bill and frequently well-marked heads. They are in the family Emberizidae.

The Hedge Sparrow or Dunnock (Prunella modularis) is similarly unrelated. It is a sparrow in name only, a relic of the old practice of calling any small bird a "sparrow".

There are 35 species of Old World sparrows. Below is the full list.

Species list in taxonomic order

This is a list of sparrow species, presented in taxonomic order.

Sparrows in literature

References to Old World sparrows in literature usually refer to the House Sparrow.

References

  • Clement, Harris and Davis, Finches and Sparrows ISBN 0-7136-8017-2 (hardcover) ISBN 0-7136-5203-9 (paperback)

External links

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