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Passer motitensis (Great sparrow) 

Grootmossie [Afrikaans]; Enzunge (applied to some of the bishops, widows and sparrows) [Kwangali]; Lemphorokgohlo la Kapa [North Sotho]; Tswere (generic term for sparrows, petronias and canaries [Tswana]; Roestmus [Dutch]; Grand moineau [French]; Rotbrauner Sperling, Rostsperling, Riesensperling [German]; Pardal-grande [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 motitensis (Great sparrow)   

Great sparrow male, Etosha National Park, Namibia. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]


Distribution and habitat

Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring from south-western Angola through to Namibia, Botswana, southern Zimbabwe and northern South Africa. It generally prefers arid and semi-arid savanna woodland and shrubland, especially with Acacia trees, but it also occupies fallow grazing land with scattered bushes.

Distribution of Great 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.  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Diderick cuckoo.


It mainly eats seeds and insects, foraging both on the ground and in tree foliage.


  • The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of an untidy, thick-walled hollow ball with a side entrance, made of grass and asparagus leaves and lined with feathers and fine grass. It is typically placed in a thorn tree or bush, sometimes fairly exposed and easy to spot.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-April.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 12-14 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents on a diet of insects, leaving the nest after about 15-18 days.


Not threatened, although the clearing of large trees has caused its range to contract.


  • 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.