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House Sparrow, Glen Bodie
Photo © Glen Bodie

Photo: Glen Bodie
Breeding evidence - House Sparrow
Breeding evidence
Probability of observation - House Sparrow
Probability of observation
Elevation plot - House Sparrow
Elevation plot

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House Sparrow
Passer domesticus
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
0 - 901 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
N/A
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
188 45 123 132
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Brit. Col.1970 - 2012 -0.423 (-2.68 - 1.22)Medium
Canada1970 - 2012 -3.87 (-4.46 - -3.11)High

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
 0.19 0.260.13 0.7
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
   0.190.72 0.12
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains
0.150.3 0.26  0.22

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
 0.190.180.88
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
 0.52 0.17
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
0.33   
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce
0.33  0.1

Characteristics and Range This old-world sparrow is one of the most familiar urban birds. The House Sparrow was introduced to North America around 1850 but is now resident in populated areas throughout the continent, south of the Boreal Forest (Lowther and Cink 2006). Native and resident across northern Eurasia south to northern Africa and south-east Asia, its adaptability and preference for human habitats have given this species a nearly worldwide distribution.

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The House Sparrow likely arrived in British Columbia in the 1890s (Campbell et al. 2001) and is now an increasingly widespread resident in settlement and farmland areas across southern British Columbia, distributed more locally in the interior, and absent only from northwestern British Columbia and Haida Gwaii. Generally, Atlas surveys show the distribution to be similar to that reported in The Birds of British Columbia but expand the confirmed breeding range northward in the Coast and Mountains Ecoprovince (northern Vancouver Island and northern mainland coast).

The highest Probabilities of Observation and abundance are at low elevations in the Georgia Depression Ecoprovince, as noted by Campbell et al. (2001). Secondary high Pobs and abundance values occur in the Okanagan, Thompson and Fraser valley floors in the Southern Interior and locally in the Boreal Plains ecoprovinces; however, abundance in these areas is less than half that found in the Georgia Depression.

The House Sparrow is a cavity nester and is strongly associated with human-modified environments and microhabitats.

Conservation and Recommendations Populations of the House Sparrow in British Columbia are relatively stable (Environment Canada 2014) but in Canada have undergone a significant decline since 1970 (Environment Canada 2011); the declines are worldwide, and are likely related to changes in farming practices and transportation (Lowther and Cink 2006). In British Columbia, the House Sparrow is an invasive species which breeds early and often outcompetes native cavity nesters by usurping potential nest cavities and establishing nests prior to the native birds' arrival. It is difficult to discourage but the best strategies are, where possible, to restrict the entrance size in nest boxes to permit use by native species but exclude the House Sparrow, or to place nest boxes intended for other species >100 m distance from preferred House Sparrow habitat such as farmsteads.

Art Martell

Recommended citation: Martell, A. 2015. House Sparrow in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. http://www.birdatlas.bc.ca/accounts/speciesaccount.jsp?sp=HOSP&lang=en [10 Dec 2018]

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