Sparrows

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This article provides information on the identification, biology, and pest potential of sparrows in Western Australia.

Introduction

Tree sparrows and house sparrows are common in eastern Australia. They have not become established in WA because of prevention measures carried out by the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA).

Identification

Both sparrow species are slightly larger than the common welcome swallow (Hirundo neoxena). The sparrows have wedge-shaped, finch-like bills.

The tree sparrow has a chestnut crown and nape, a black chin and white cheeks with black patches. Black extends from the bill to behind the eye and the neck has a white collar. The back and wings are brown streaked with black, underparts are off-white. The wings have double bands of white. Immature birds are paler in colour, with less distinct markings.

The male house sparrow has a grey crown and white cheeks. The throat and upper breast are black. Chestnut extends from the eye around to the back of the neck (nape). The upper body is brown streaked with black, and underparts are greyish. The female is nondescript buff - brown and has buff eyebrows. Both sexes have single white wingbars. Immature birds are similar to the female.

Distribution

The tree sparrow occurs naturally in Eurasia but introduced populations have established in North America and Australia, in Victoria, New South Wales (Riverina region) and the Australian Capital Territory.

Tree sparrows often arrive in WA on ships from south-east Asia. Birds are usually found near sea ports.

The house sparrow is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. Introduced populations occur worldwide. In Australia, it has become established in all states except WA. House sparrows are often found in traps set for starlings at the border of South Australia and WA near the coast. These birds are attempting to extend their range west.

Contact information

Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS)
+61 (0)8 9368 3080