The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) occurs naturally in most of Europe and Asia, though it is replaced by allied forms in some areas; it has also followed humans all over the world and has been intentionally or accidentally introduced to most of North America and Australia as well as urban areas in other parts of the World.
Wherever people build, House Sparrows sooner or later come to share their abodes. Though described as tame and semi-domestic, neither is strictly true; humans, in the Sparrow's eye, provide food and home, but while impudently annexing his property, it remains suspicious and resents familiarity.
An abundant resident, the bird is not universally common; in many hilly districts it is scarce. In cities, towns and villages, even round isolated farms, it can be the most abundant bird.
So familiar a bird needs little description, yet it is often confused with the smaller and slimmer Tree Sparrow, which, however, has a coppery and not grey crown, two distinct wing bars, and a black patch on the cheeks.
The House Sparrow’s bill in summer is blue-black, the legs brown. When clean, the cock Sparrow is an exceedingly handsome bird. In winter the plumage is dulled by pale edgings, and the bill is yellowish brown. The female has no black on head nor throat, nor a grey crown; her upper parts are streaked with brown.
The young are deeper brown, and the white is replaced by buff; the beak is dull yellow. Length, 6.25 inches.
It is gregarious at all seasons in its nesting colonies, autumnal raids and communal roosts.
Although its young are fed on larvae of insects, often destructive species, no sooner can they fly than they are led to the fields, where grain is devoured and as much wasted.
In spring flowers, especially yellow blossoms, are attacked and torn to bits; crocuses, primroses and aconites seem to attract it most. It will hunt butterflies.
The short and incessant chirp needs no description, and its double note "phillip" which originated the now obsolete popular name of Phillip Sparrow, is as familiar.
The nesting site is varied; under eaves, in holes in masonry or rocks, in ivy or creepers on houses or banks, on the sea-cliffs, or in bushes in bays and inlets. When built in holes or ivy the nest is an untidy litter of straw and rubbish, abundantly, filled with feathers. But large, well-constructed domed nests are built in orchards and other trees, and in treeless country in hedgerows or bushes.
Before the rightful owners arrive, the old nests of House Martins are annexed, and occasionally the sparrow evicts a bird in occupation; the Sand Martin also suffers.
Five to six eggs, profusely dusted, speckled or blotched with black, brown or ash-grey on a blue-tinted or creamy white ground, are usual types of the very variable eggs. They are variable in size and shape as well as markings. The hen is said to do all the incubating.