Which Sparrow?


I took this photo at the beginning of the month as I noticed there was a mark on this sparrow's cheek.

There have been sightings of tree sparrows in the village and I am wondering if this could be a young tree sparrow that is still developing it's colourings.

I know that the black throat/bib would make it a male house sparrow or a tree sparrow, but I did not see how long the bib was.

I think this bird had a brown head without grey, but the sparrows and starlings were moving around fast, so I only have this one photo of the bird.

You can see one white bar on it's wing and maybe white edging on the lower feather edges.  I believe a tree sparrow would have two white bars on the wing.

It seems to have a yellow bill and it has a marking coming away from it's eye. 

I would be interested to hear if people think this a house or tree sparrow.  Thanks.

  • It's a female house sparrow

    (Pardon the Scottish Accent)

  • In reply to Linda257:

    Really interesting. I'd have thought that the bib and cheek patch were diagnostic for tree sparrow, so what do I know?
  • In reply to Chris Gallagher:

    Every day is a school day Chris ;-)
    Tree sparrow have a sold chestnut brown crown and are smaller than the house sparrow.
    Some more facts here on tree sparrows

    (Pardon the Scottish Accent)

  • Female House Sparrow for me as well

    Richard B

  • Tree Sparrows are also more skittish and 'busy' than the more common House Sparrow.

    A House Sparrow will tolerate humans much more whereas a Tree Sparrow won't.
  • Some factors to consider.

    Yellow beak: Only house sparrows are generally known to have yellow beaks. Tree sparrows may have some yellow at the base of the bill but it is not usually self or as common, in my experience and according to my research.
    Cheek spot: Possibly a simple darkening which can occur on individuals of all species, although obviously known to be a trait of tree sparrows (usually larger).
    Wing bar: Usually not visible or very muted on female house sparrows, while they are wide on males. In tree sparrows (both sexes) there are usually 2 distinct bars and they are thin.
    Eyebrow streak: A distinguishing trait of female house sparrows and sometimes present in tree sparrows along with black eye patching.
    Chest/shin stripe to chest: Usually found on males of the house sparrow species, with tree sparrows having more of a beard/high bib most of the time.
    Legs: Flesh toned in house sparrows, usually darker in males. Almost universally yellow in tree sparrows.
    Cap: Although the cap is not very visible in this image, the paler buff area bordered by chestnut is much more indicative of a male house sparrow, with tree sparrows universally having little or no edging/variation in their caps.
    Collar/neck ring: Tree sparrows usually have some degree of white or pale collaring, almost always very visible.

    On balance, if I had to choose one of the two species P. domesticus or P. montanus (and not a potential foreign visitor) then I would say it is a juvenile male house sparrow (P. domesticus). That said, the two have been long suspected to hybridise so don't be surprised if that is the case! I would suggest seeing if you can capture their call, as hybrid birds often used mixed calls.

    Thanks for sharing your fun mystery and keeping the birds fed at this difficult time and all the best with your future spotting!
  • Thank you everyone for your postings on identification and the information that you have shared.
    I am sorry that the photo was so poor. I have put up a wildlife camera this afternoon and maybe if the bird returns I may get a better image. However, even if it doesn't, I have found all this information on this posting really helpful.
  • Robbo, just a point on House/Tree Sparrows we two sites locally that holds both species and there has been some cross breeding, the lengths these birds will go to to confuse us birders


    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can