RSPB Scotland’s Allie McGregor shares 5 facts about house sparrows, which have been the top spotted bird in Scotland for every Big Garden Birdwatch since 2012.

Five facts about house sparrows

House sparrows make nests in all sorts of places

House sparrows known to use holes or crevices in buildings, even amongst roof tiles and pipes, they also frequently build free standing nests in hedges or conifers.

male house sparrow perched on edge of roof

Pairs are often very faithful to their nest site and to each other for life. When making the nest a hole is filled with dry grass or straw with a nesting chamber lined with materials such as feathers, hairs, string and paper.

House sparrows will readily use nestboxes too!

Some of their nests have been noted in particularly unusual spots

There have been records of sparrows nesting in coal mines and on the 80th floor of the empire state building. There have also been stories claiming they’ve nested on boats, amongst other strange locations.

House sparrows have been known by many other names.

The house sparrow has no shortage of nicknames and regional names including spadge, spug, sparrer, squidgie, sparrag, spadgick, sparky and sporra. Many of these seem to derive from the Middle English ‘sparewe’ and the Old English ‘sparwa’.

Female house sparrow amongst branches

House sparrows are the most widely distributed wild bird

House sparrows have spread to all but one continent, Antarctica. They are native to Europe and Asia but have managed to make their way across the globe.

House sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings in 2019

There were more than 100,000 recorded sightings of house sparrows in Scotland during the 2019 Big Garden Birdwatch.

While the overall decline in house sparrow numbers across the UK, reported by participants, since the Big Garden Birdwatch began is 57% (1979 – 2018), house sparrows were recorded in over 70% of gardens in Scotland in 2018, up from 66% a decade ago.


You can sign up for Big Garden Birdwatch, taking place from 25-27 January, today at