Tree Sparrows

Some Facts About Tree Sparrows

Identification: Go On - Take A Closer Look At Those Sparrows!

Tree SparrowTree Sparrow -
Passer montanus

Often overlooked when House Sparrows are present, but easy to separate with good views. Slightly smaller size, neater, more colourful appearance.

Chestnut cap, white cheeks and black ‘ear’ spot are diagnostic.

Both the  sexes and young birds are similar.

Tree Sparrows are sometimes mistaken for ….

House SparrowHouse Sparrow –
Passer domesticus

Slightly larger and more rangy-looking than Tree Sparrow, and the more likely of the two to be seen in truly urban gardens, but still fairly common in rural areas . Also declining in many places.

The female House Sparrow is much duller than the male, generally a drab brown without the male’s head markings, Young birds are much like the female.

What else do we know about Tree Sparrows?

  • Gregarious birds, often forming winter flocks where a sizeable food-source exists eg over-wintered stubble or grassland.
  • The decline is associated with a number of circumstances …intensive agriculture, hedgerow clearance, loss of old trees, conversion of farm buildings to residences, more efficient farming techniques …
  • Mix readily with House Sparrows, finches, and buntings, particularly in Winter, so take a closer look at any flocks you see. There may be Tree Sparrows with them!
  • Remain gregarious in the breeding season, forming small loose colonies in old farm buildings, trees with suitable holes and even the nest of larger birds …and of course they readily take to next boxes.
  • Raise up to three broods in a good year.
  • They don’t generally move far in the winter in the UK but some European populations do migrate, and ringing results have shown they can move considerable distances.
  • The scientific name  ‘ montanus ‘ suggests a mountain bird although they are actually mainly a lowland species.
  • The Tree Sparrow in the UK is officially a BAP ( Biodiversity Action Plan ) and Red List species. That means  they have declined significantly and that action needs to be taken to reverse that trend. You can help!

Distribution mapThe Tree Sparrow still has a wide distribution through much of Europe and across even to the Far East, but the decline in the UK has been dramatic over the last 40 years – more than 50% in many places!

Currently showing some recent population improvements in some areas in the UK, probably due to conservation measures, but a long way to go.

You can help!

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Just in case there is any confusion was created for the Eurasian Tree Sparrows Passer montanus and not the American Tree Sparrow Spizella arborea! American Tree Sparrow is a different and not very closely related species which has not occured in the UK. However Eurasian Tree Sparrow does occur in the USA as an introduced and successful breeding species. I hope that's cleared up any confusion!

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