Sparrows are very cute birds. They are also very clever. They learn by observing others. They are very social creatures. But how long do sparrows live?
Did you know the oldest recorded wild house sparrow was 15 years and 9 months old when found in Texas in 2004? In captivity, sparrows were recorded to live up to 23 years. Do sparrows usually live longer, or is it just an exception? For that, you’ll need to know:
The Lifespan of Various Sparrows
Even though the lifespan of house sparrows is on average 3 years, there are other sparrow species out there that can live longer. The lifespan of each species depends on where they live and how many problems they have to encounter.
Sparrows can be divided into two groups based on their size: small-sized sparrows and large-sized sparrows. Small-sized sparrows include the house sparrow, tree sparrow, and European starling. Large-sized sparrows consist of the American tree sparrow, dark-eyed junco, white-throated sparrow, song sparrow, savannah sparrow, chipping sparrow, meadowlark, and grasshopper sparrow.
Small-sized sparrows tend to live a little bit shorter than large-sized ones. Their average life expectancy is about 2–3 years. However, some small-sized sparrow species can live as long as 5 years.
Large-sized sparrows live for 4–5 years on average. Some of them can even reach 10 years!
The lifespan of House Sparrows
What is the scientific name of the house sparrow?
The scientific name of the house sparrow is Passer domesticus.
In the UK, the only other resident member of the Passer genus is the tree sparrow (Passer montanus). Although the dunnock (Prunella modularis) is sometimes known as the hedge sparrow, it is actually part of the Accentor group, in the Prunellidae family.
One of about 25 species in the genus, the house sparrow is native to most of Europe, the Passer The house sparrow is strongly associated with human habitation, and can live in urban or rural settings.
They are gregarious during all seasons when feeding, often forming flocks with other species of birds.
House sparrows are not only very common but also very popular. They are often seen in parks, gardens, and backyards. This makes them easy to observe and study. Therefore, scientists have been doing research on these birds for quite some time now.
The extent of its range makes it the most widely distributed wild bird on the planet.
Living in close quarters with us, house sparrows can get under our skin when they get into our houses and stores, crowd other birds at feeders or birdbaths, or simply hang around in large numbers in public places. And the fact that people introduced them to this continent is sometimes held against them.
House sparrows are often one of the only birds willing to live in inner cities. Would we be better off if these places were empty and lifeless? Let’s accept these naturalized citizens and deal with the conditions we control to minimize problems.
House sparrows also engage in social activities such as dust or water bathing and “social singing”, in which birds call together in bushes. The house sparrow feeds mostly on the ground, but it flocks in trees and bushes. At feeding stations and nests, female house sparrows are dominant despite their smaller size, and they can fight over males in the breeding season. House sparrows sleep with the bill tucked underneath the scapular feathers.
How to identify house sparrows
The plumage of the house sparrow is mostly different shades of grey and brown. The sexes exhibit strong dimorphism: the female is mostly buffish above and below, while the male has boldly colored head markings, a reddish back, and grey underparts. The male has a dark grey.
The male is duller in fresh nonbreeding plumage, with whitish tips on many feathers. Wear and preening expose many of the bright brown and black markings, including most of the black throat and chest patch, called the “bib” or “badge”.The badge is variable in width and general size and may signal social status or fitness. This hypothesis has led to a “veritable ‘cottage industry'” of studies, which have only conclusively shown that patches increase in size with age.
The female has no black markings or grey crowns. Its upperparts and head are brown with darker streaks around the mantle and a distinct pale supercilium. Its underparts are pale grey-brown. The female’s bill is brownish-grey and becomes darker in breeding plumage approaching the black of the male’s bill.
Juveniles are similar to the adult female, but deeper brown below and paler above, with paler and less defined supercilia. Juveniles have broader buff feather edges and tend to have looser, scruffier plumage, like molting adults.
Juvenile males tend to have darker throats and white postoculars like adult males, while juvenile females tend to have white throats. However, juveniles cannot be reliably sexed by plumage: some juvenile males lack any markings of the adult male, and some juvenile females have male features.
The bills of young birds are light yellow to straw, paler than the female’s bill. Immature males have paler versions of the adult male’s markings, which can be very indistinct in fresh plumage. By their first breeding season, young birds generally are indistinguishable from other adults, though they may still be paler during their first year.
Eggs hatch at the same time, after a short incubation period lasting 11–14 days, and exceptionally for as many as 17 or as few as 9. The length of the incubation period decreases as ambient temperature increases later in the breeding season. The length of the incubation period decreases as ambient temperature increases later in the breeding season. Young house sparrows remain in the nest for 11 to 23 days, normally 14 to 16 days.
During this time, they are fed by both parents.
This species lives between three and five years though its lifespan may be shorter because predators like Cooper’s hawks and various owls eat adult birds, baby birds, and eggs.
In captivity, house sparrows can survive up to 6 years. But if they don’t get enough food, they may die sooner.
What do house sparrows sound like?
The loud, chirping calls of house sparrows are very distinctive and can carry a long way.
Scientists have discovered that house sparrows can live up to 3 years in the wild. If they are kept under good conditions, they may even live longer.
It is not obligate. It tolerates a variety of climates but prefers drier conditions, especially in moist tropical climates. It has several adaptations to dry areas, including a high salt tolerance. The house sparrow is a very social bird.
In the wild, house sparrows eat seeds, insects, worms, and fruits. When they are kept in cages, they will eat almost anything.
Lifespan Of Tree Sparrows
Tree sparrows are another type of small-sized sparrow. They are native to Central and South America. They are also called “tree swallows” because they build nests high above ground level.
Tree sparrows are smaller than house sparrows. They have brown feathers with black spots on the wings. Their bodies are slightly larger than those of house sparrows.
Tree sparrows can live anywhere from 1 year to 8 years in the wild. Scientists believe that this variation is due to differences in diet.
The Eurasian tree sparrow was among European species shipped to the United States in 1870 so that immigrants from Europe could see familiar birds in their neighborhoods.
Its average lifespan is three years, and the oldest, banded Eurasian tree sparrow was about four years old.
When they are kept in cages in zoos, they can live for more than 20 years.
Lifespans Of Other Sparrow Species
The North American birds have five subspecies based on their biological classification (Gambelii, Leucophrys, Nuttalli, Iriantha, and Pugetensis.) But it is more common for conservation groups to classify them based on habitat, as follows: The dark-lored birds: Are common in the Rocky Mountains, and have a pink-colored bill.
There are several other types of sparrows that can live longer than house sparrows in the wild. These include the dark-eyed junco (which lives for 7–8 years), white-throated spinner (for 6–7 years), savannah sparrow (up to 5 years), and song sparrow (up to 4 years), and meadowlarks (up to 3 years).
There are also other sparrow species that can live longer in captivity. For example, the grasshopper sparrow can live for over 15 years.
What Affects the Lifespan of Sparrows?
Predators, injuries, outbreaks, parasites, loss of habitat, and the environment mainly affect the lifespan of sparrows. Their populations have been declining for decades worldwide due to the excessive use of insecticides. If sparrows can avoid these threats, they can live twice as much as their expected lifespan.
This is common to every animal, even human beings. When a sparrow is prone to attack by predators, it can start counting out its days as it will almost be under attack every day, and sooner or later, the predator will succeed in its goal.
However, where there are no predators, a sparrow will be able to live its life peacefully and probably live its full life in tandem with its body system. Illegal hunting and poaching also pose a threat to the lives of sparrows.
Millions of sparrows, particularly song sparrows, are injured in the United States each year due to collisions with windows. A lot of studies show that around 60% of window collisions are fatal, which leads sparrows to death.
An outbreak will drastically reduce the number of sparrows and drastically shorten their lives. Sparrows travel in flocks and colonies. It will be quite easy for an epidemic to spread among them.
Winters can get very cold, while summers can get blistering hot, causing many birds to fall victim to diseases and parasites. Several diseases affect House Sparrows in homes, some of which are curable.
For example, chicken mites are very common amongst sparrows, pigeons, and starlings. They feed on the birds’ blood. This is almost unavoidable. Sparrows can get chicken mites no matter how cautious you are or how sanitary you keep things.
External pests have a great impact on your bird’s health, and extreme illnesses can put them on the verge of death.
A sparrow’s lifetime is also shortened by injuries that result in fatality. Fatal injuries that induce a shift in a sparrow’s activity have an effect on how long it lives.
One disease responsible for reducing the sparrow population is coccidiosis.
Many challenges affect the sparrow population, whether North American or British birds.
Parasites can be found in many different parts of the body, including the eyes, mouth, lungs, intestines, kidneys, liver, heart, brain, bones, muscles, blood, skin, and reproductive organs. Some of these parasites can cause serious health problems, while others do no harm at all.
House sparrows are very adaptive, but that doesn’t imply they can flourish in every change to their environment that people make.
The environment also has a significant role in deciding how long a sparrow may survive.
This factor however isn’t the most contributing factor since the house sparrows are opportunists and will essentially feed on everything. They do not depend on the people to specially put out feed for them.
A sparrow that lives in an environment where it can receive enough food and reproduce effectively will survive for many years. Sparrows will be able to grow and survive in areas where there are sufficient resources for their existence.
However, some recent developments may also hamper their lifespan.
Livestock is increasingly being reared in enclosed spaces, sometimes even inside. As a result, there are fewer opportunities to eat grain.
Similarly, municipal sanitation has improved, making it more difficult for sparrows to locate feed.
The worldwide insect decrease might possibly have a role.
Sparrows need to eat every day. However, they cannot store food in their stomachs. Therefore, they must consume large amounts of food each day. A sparrow’s diet consists of 60% livestock feed.
Some sparrows have shorter lifespans than others. Genetic factors play a role in determining the lifespan of sparrow species.
Furthermore, imidacloprid, another widely used pesticide, makes sparrows lose a lot of weight. Consequently, sparrows have to postpone their migration and become deprived of mating. As a result, their populations decline with time.
Dangerous substances used in farming hurt far more than the animals they’re supposed to help, and they do so in the most subtle ways.
Imidacloprid, a common pesticide, causes sparrows to lose a lot of weight and postpone their migration, thus depriving the birds of their best opportunity for a normal mating season.
Timing is essential for a fast-moving bird; its prospects of securing a decent nesting location, connecting with a suitable partner, and having healthy young increase if it arrives early in the spring mating season.
Did You Know?
The bird population that has been declining globally for decades can be blamed on the most widely used insecticides.
Another way humans contribute to the early deaths of sparrows is via the process of nest removal.
Sparrows end up building nests in any and every hole they find around the house. They may even block your vents. Some people attempt to remove the nest while it is inhabited by the bird.
The young need to be attended to by their parents for at least two weeks. Constant visitation by people to their nests may result in the parents abandoning the nests. Without the parents, the survival of the young is close to impossible.
You may be surprised to know that there aren’t always external factors that result in the death of a sparrow. There are multiple cases where a sparrow itself might be the cause of another fellow bird’s death!
If one of the chicks becomes infected or unwell or is malformed in any way, the mother sparrow will either kill it and consume the remnants for food, or move it out of the nest to protect the remaining kids.
Sparrows aren’t the smartest birds especially if they are first-time mothers. They get fearful and confused regarding the steps they should take.
Further, a sparrow is constantly attempting to assert authority over other flock members. The House Sparrow is a very aggressive bird. What’s shocking is that they will compete and fight with other sparrows also.
When vying for nesting locations, they will intimidate, attack, and kill less dominant sparrows, as well as damage their eggs and young.
Loss of habitat
One of the biggest threats to sparrows is the loss of habitat. Their natural habitats have been destroyed due to human activities such as deforestation, urbanization, and pollution.
In addition, sparrows face problems when migrating from one place to another. This is because they don’t have the ability to fly long distances.
In fact, the only reason why these little birds migrate is to find a mate and build a nest. If you want to save them, then you must stop using pesticides and start planting trees
Clutch Size: 1-8 eggs
Number of Broods: 1-4 broods
Egg Length: 0.8-0.9 in (2-2.2 cm)
Egg Width: 0.6-0.6 in (1.4-1.6 cm)
Incubation Period: 10-14 days Nestling Period: 10-14 days
Egg Description: Light white to greenish-white or bluish-white, usually spotted with gray or brown.
Condition at Hatching: Entirely naked upon hatching with bright pink skin, eyes closed, clumsy.
Can Sparrows Survive in Captivity?
Confining sparrows may be the only option for averting extinction, according to many experts.
Sparrows kept in captivity are significantly safer than wild birds. There is no need for captive sparrows to be concerned about predators preying on them. However, when compared to the risks and stress of survival encountered by other wild birds, they are little.
In fact, many biologists consider captivity as the sole alternative for avoiding possible extinction.
If the sparrows are allowed to live in the wild without intervention, they might likely go extinct. The reason for this is habitat loss, storms, predators, and even fire ants.
Did You Know?
About one-fifth of the songbirds fall victim to fire ants before they even depart their nest While captivity may be considered safer in comparison, it is not short of problems.
The most common is the prevalence of parasites despite keeping all cleanliness precautions in check. The other issue is that keeping the birds captive might decrease their natural survival instincts and habits.
To ensure that you do not deprive an entire species of their natural lifestyle in the hopes of keeping them alive, be sure to leave some birds out in the wild. These birds can then act as a guide for the birds that are released from captivity later.
What Happens When Sparrows Are Released In Nature?
When sparrows are released back into nature, they face many challenges. They may be attacked by predators such as hawks or eagles. They also encounter difficulties like finding food and water.
However, they are able to adapt to these changes quite well due to their ability to learn quickly.
For your information, cats kill billions of birds in the United States every year, and most of them are sparrows. Besides, crows, grackles, and small hawks sometimes eat sparrow eggs, nestlings, and even adults. Red and grey squirrels also attack sparrow nests.
What Can You Do To Reduce the Risks?
In order to reduce the negative effects on the lifespan of sparrows, you will need to discourage predators, keep feeders and nesting boxes clean, and don’t hurt the sparrows. Also, you should avoid pesticides and stop sparrows from flying into windows.
You should also make sure that the sparrows have enough space to fly around. If you want to prevent them from being killed by cats, you will need to put up fences.
You must also provide them with shelter, food, and water. This way, they will be able to survive in nature.
The Eurasian tree sparrow was among European species shipped to the United States in 1870 so that immigrants from Europe could see familiar birds in their neighborhoods.
In summary, sparrows, on average, live longer in captivity than in the wild. But, finding precise data on how long sparrows live is quite difficult because they cannot be monitored from birth to death. Only the lifespan of captive sparrows can perfectly be counted.
No matter how many years sparrows usually live, there are some factors out there that can shorten the life of sparrows. If you’re a bird enthusiast, you have some duties to reduce the risks. You shouldn’t be one of them who always try to hurt sparrows.