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the web of life in southern Africa

Passer domesticus (House sparrow) 

Huismossie [Afrikaans]; Enzunge (applied to some of the bishops, widows and sparrows) [Kwangali]; Serobele (generic term for sparrows) [South Sotho]; Jolwane [Swazi]; Tswere (generic term for sparrows, petronias and canaries [Tswana]; huismus [Dutch]; Moineau domestique [French]; Haussperling [German]; Pardal-dos-telhados [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 domesticus (House sparrow)  

House Sparrow male, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ]

Passer domesticus (House sparrow)  
House Sparrow female, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ]  

Distribution and habitat

Although it originated from Eurasia it was introduced to Australasia, the Americas and Africa, specifically along the Nile River and separately from southern DRC through Zambia and Angola to southern Africa. Here it is locally common across South Africa (where it was originally introduced), extending into Zimbabwe and Botswana, while more scarce in Namibia and Mozambique. It generally prefers urban, rural and suburban areas, sometimes occurring around remote abandoned buildings in other habitats, such as semi-arid shrubland.

Distribution of House 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 the following animals:


It eats a variety of different food, including seeds, nectar, fruit and invertebrates, using a wide range of foraging techniques. It most commonly plucks food items from the ground, but it may glean insects from foliage or hawk small prey aerially. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • seeds
    • nectar of Aloe marlothii (Mountain aloe)
    • flowers of Sideroxylon inerme (White milkwood)
  • Invertebrates


  • It is monogamous with a life-long pair bond, usually nesting solitarily in southern Africa, even though it is colonial in Europe.
  • The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a ball-shaped structure with an entrance on the side or on the top, usually made of grass, feathers, wool and other soft material. It is typically placed in a building, such as in a hole, under eaves or in a thatched roof, but it may also use an old palm tree or the nest of a swallow, especially the following species:
  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from September-December.
  • It lays 1-6 eggs, which are mainly incubated by the female for about 11-14 days.
  • The chicks are brooded and fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 14-22 days and becoming fully independent about two weeks later.


Despite its abundance it seems to have a minor impact on indigenous birds of southern Africa, although it may have displaced Cape wagtails from urban areas, as they both adept at scavenging in these environments. 


  • 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.