The Common Sparrow

Sparrow | Mikhail Gnatkovskiy

Are sparrows really common? Sparrows are in the family of small passerine birds. Passerine birds are perching birds and songbirds. They include more than half of the world’s bird species. A house sparrow is a bird in the sparrow family that is found in most parts of the world. It is a small bird with a typical length of 5 to 7 in. It only weighs about .85 – 1.4 oz. Sparrows live about 3 years old in the wild and hop when they are on the ground rather than walk.

Adult male house sparrow | Colin Robert Varndell

House sparrows like urban areas, and tend to invade human spaces, as they often live inside of airport buildings, school gyms and other places with tall ceilings. They love to make nests in porch awnings, near house gutters, under eves, and seemingly anywhere human beings also live. True to their name, house sparrows love living in and around our houses (homes). It is a good idea to check dryer vents often to make sure every airway is clear.

Song Sparrow perched on a branch | Paul Reeves

The song sparrow is also one of the most familiar birds in North America. This bird is extremely common in the Midwest and Northeast. The song sparrow hides in thickets and flies from bush to bush. Song sparrows eat mostly insects and seeds. They will go to bird feeders if they are close to the ground and near ground cover. Song sparrows like other sparrows, do not migrate and they sing lovely tunes, hence the name, song sparrow.

Swamp Sparrow on cattail stem | Jean Landry

Swamp sparrows perch and look for food in and near the ground or water surface. They have longer legs than a house sparrow or song sparrow, so they are able to forage better in water and around water pathways.  They live in wetlands and also near creek beds and wet fields and brambles. Song sparrows sometimes migrate south if they have made their southern home too far north in a place where their wetter areas will freeze during winter. These birds will fly south to places that do not freeze during the winter so their habitat can still be near water that is running and not too cold for the birds.

Fox sparrow | Mircea Costina

The Fox sparrow is another sparrow that migrates because it settles so far north. Living in the upper parts of North America in the summer, the fox sparrow will migrate to the lower parts of the US before winter. The bird will fly at night when migrating which is extremely interesting. The sparrow is not nocturnal as a rule except when migrating both north and south.

The nests are usually on or near the ground. They also may be in shrubs or low-lying trees, but still not more than 8 feet above the ground. These sparrows get all their food from the ground foraging around for insects and seeds with their beaks and feet. If they live near the ocean, they may eat small crustaceans and other small beach insects.

Sparrows at the city fountain | Shveyn Irina

Sparrows fly just like any other bird, but most varieties of sparrows spend over 80% of their time on the ground. Even though families of sparrows have their own nests, they actually live in colonies. Sparrows are considered some of the most vocal birds in North America, beginning their songs at the first light of day.

There are over 30 subspecies of sparrows around the world. Each type of sparrow is just a little bit different from the other. When we think of sparrows, we think of a small, common brown bird. But a sparrow really isn’t so common, is it?