The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is a well-known bird seen all year round and found throughout the UK in gardens, parks, towns, cities and farmyards. It is the bird most connected to houses and humans as this little cheeky chappie is not shy and will hop onto your garden table looking for any scrap food even if you are sitting there. You may even find them rummaging through your rubbish looking for titbits!
These house visitors are friendly plump birds with a brown back with blackish markings. The male has a grey crown, pale grey cheeks and underparts, while the female is more pale brown. They both have a small thick bill which they use to eat seeds from plants. House Sparrows prefer to feed from the ground but they will also take peanuts and seeds from bird feeders and sometimes you will see them chasing flying insects. These birds are very fast fliers and can reach a speed of 50 km per hour!
House Sparrows are very sociable and like to feed and roost in flocks. If you see one you will know there are lots more hanging around. All you will need to do is throw a few seeds down in the garden and wait for the crowd to arrive. They can be quite noisy when they are together and you will hear them making a single chirping sound which they repeat over and over again.
During the mating season the male House Sparrow chooses a nesting site and chirps there to attract a female. When a female flies past he chirps even louder and quicker to make himself more noticed. Sometimes he will follow a lady for a short distance and quiver his feathers to grab her attention as he hops around her. Pairs usually stay together for life but if a mate is lost a new partner is found very quickly, usually within a few days.
House Sparrows are not territorial so nests may be 20 to 30 cm apart from each other. Nests can be made in holes in buildings where they are filled with dry grass and lined with feathers, hairs and paper. Sparrows can also build spherical-shaped nests under the eaves of a house, bird houses or in trees and bushes. These nests are made out of twigs, straw, grass, leaves, paper and any other available material. Sparrows can be very creative when they build their nests. And sometimes they even pluck feathers from a live pigeon. How cheeky is that!
The female usually lays four to five eggs and both parents incubate the eggs for about fourteen days and both feed the young. The young leave the nest after about two weeks but are fed further by their parents for another two weeks or more until they are able to fend for themselves.