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Starling Talk
Care and Rehabilitation of Injured and
Orphaned Starlings

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House Sparrows

house sparrows

You can download this picture by Lisa Solonynko at

Today, the House Sparrow is the world’s most abundant songbird, and it can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus, or HOSP) is sometimes called the English Sparrow, domestic sparrow, gamin, tramp or hoodlum. Passer means that it is a passerine or a perching bird. The domesticus comes from the close association with humans. House Sparrows are common in cities and around farms but are not found in forests.

House Sparrows were imported into the US from Europe around 1850 to help with the control of insects, but it has since been found that they are not as insectivorous as once thought. Their diet consists of 60% livestock feed (corn, wheat, oats, etc.), 18% cereals (grains from fields and in storage), 17% weed seeds, and 4% insects. The diet of nestlings may be up to 70% animal food to encourage rapid growth (McLoughlin). Where available, House Sparrows also feed on cultivated grains, fruits and vegetables.

The House Sparrow has been commended for feeding on insect species considered to be pests, such as moths, cabbage worms, and cotton caterpillars (Burleigh 1958, Sprunt and Chamberlain 1970, in Aguirre and Poss, 2000). Although they forage mostly on the ground in open areas, these sparrows will perch on weed stalks to take seeds and will search tree barks for insects. There is research evidence that HOSP populations are declining in rural and urban habitats in Europe but no one has yet determined why. Breeding Bird Survey data also indicate that the population is declining in the eastern and central United States. Possible reasons that have been proposed are changing agricultural practices such as sealing grain stores to reduce access and spillage; increased pollution; use of herbicides/pesticides and their impact on food sources (House Sparrow nestlings are exclusively fed invertebrates for the first four days of their life); damage to natural habitats; loss of nest sites; feral cat and hawk predation; and nestling starvation (due to lack of availability of insects because of widespread use of garden pesticides resulting in an absence of insects), adult starvation during winter months (since House Sparrows do not migrate but stay in the same area when other birds relocate to warmer winter climates), and infection (trichomoniasis, a parasite that poses no risks to humans is commonly found in sparrows).

Sparrow eggs hatch in 11 days. The baby birds fledge when only 14 days old and are on the ground for a day or two when first leaving the nest. The young are independent 7-10 days after leaving the nest. They also have a relatively long life span (the record for a wild sparrow is 23 years ), although their typical lifespan in the wild is much shorter. In captivity, they have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. We know of one pet who lived to be 15 years of age.

Growing Up --Go to this webpage to figure out how old your baby sparrow is. The webpage displays pictures of a sparrow growing up from day one to one year of age.

Diet for Sparrows -- The diet for baby starlings and sparrows can be found on this webpage along with an appropriate handfeeding recipe for both species.

Additional diet info for rescued sparrows: When the baby sparrow is between 2 and 3 weeks old you can put millet spray in the bottom of his cage, and a small container (a jar top works well) of the dry cat food/poultry mix that has been ground into small pieces. This mix should be available at all times throughout his life to provide the needed protein. When he is eating the cat food mix you can introduce small finch and canary seed in a small bowl on the floor of the cage (remember that sparrows are mostly ground feeders). When he is eating the seeds and cat food mix well you can start introducing small amounts of assorted fruit, vegetables and greens.

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