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Passer diffusus (Southern grey-headed sparrow) 

Gryskopmossie [Afrikaans]; Enzunge (applied to some of the bishops, widows and sparrows) [Kwangali]; Serobele (generic term for sparrows) [South Sotho]; Tswere (generic term for sparrows, petronias and canaries [Tswana]; Mozambique-mus [Dutch]; Moineau sud-africain [French]; Graukopfsperling [German]; Pardal-de-cabeça-cinzenta-meridional [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Passeridae

Passer diffusus (Southern grey-headed sparrow)  Passer diffusus (Southern grey-headed sparrow) 

Southern grey-headed sparrow, Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Southern grey-headed sparrow, Kgalagadi National Park, South Africa. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from western and southern Angola through Zambia to southern Africa, where it is fairly common to common across much of the region, excluding the arid west of Namibia and South Africa. It generally prefers savanna woodland, especially with Acacia, also occupying dry broad-leaved woodland, plantation edges, cultivated land and gardens.

Distribution of Southern grey-headed sparrow in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

It has been recorded as prey of Tyto alba (Barn owl); additionally nestlings are sometimes parasitised by Passeromyia heterochaeta (Tropical nest fly).

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Diderick cuckoo.


It eats seeds, fruit, nectar and insects, doing most of its foraging on the ground, often in flocks with other granivorous birds. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • seeds
      • grasses
      • forbs
        • Boerhavia repens (Spiderling)
        • Alternanthera (paperthorns)
    • fruit
      • Lycium (honey-thorns)
      • Ficus bussei (Zambezi fig)
    • nectar
      • Aloe marlothii (Mountain aloe)
      • Aloe greatheadii (Spotted aloe)
  • Insects


  • It is a monogamous, usually solitary nester, although it occasionally breeds in loose colonies.
  • The nest (see image below) is built by both sexes, consisting of a simple pad of grass, leaf petioles, weed stems, hair and feathers. It is typically placed in a tree cavity, either natural or an abandoned nest of a woodpecker or barbet, or in a hole in a wall, hollow fence post, nest box, under the eaves of a building, in a chimney or an old nest of another bird such as a Little swift, swallow or a chamber of a Red-billed buffalo-weaver colony.
Passer diffusus (Southern grey-headed sparrow)   

Southern grey-headed sparrow chicks in nest, Timbavati, Kruger National Park, South Africa . [photo Peet van Schalkwyk ©, see also scienceanimations.com]

  • Egg-laying season is from September-June, peaking from about December-April.
  • It lays 2-6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 11-14 days.
  • The chicks are brooded and fed by both adults on a diet of insects, leaving the nest after about 16-19 days. The fledglings remain dependent on their parents for about 14-21 days more, but they still roost in the nest for a further 13-20 days.


Not threatened, in fact it has adapted to the modification of habitats by humans, causing its range to expand.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.