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Saxaul Sparrow - BirdForum Opus

Photo by WckWelsh
Gobi Desert, Mongolia, June 2017
Passer ammodendri


14 - 16cm (5½-6¼ in)


Male, subspecies ammodendri
Photo by Alastair Rae
Uzbekistan, May 2007
  • Black central forehead, crown and nape
  • Broad tawny-white supercilium
  • Black lores
  • Narrow black line behind eye curving downwards around rear of pale grey ear-coverts
  • Paler grey to whitish cheeks
  • Pale sandy grey upperparts, mantle with heavy black streaks (stoliczkae with more warm brown upperparts)
  • Broad white wing-bar
  • Black bib from chin to uppermost breast
  • Dirty white underparts


  • Basic pattern similar to male
  • Colours more muted and less contrasting
  • Tawny colour on head absent or indistinct

Juveniles resemble females

Similar species

The female looks like a very pale female House Sparrow.


Occurs in central Asia from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to Turkmenistan, China and Mongolia.
Status and population size poorly known.



Three subspecies are recognized[1]:

The proposed subspecies korejewi is currently included in the nominate, timidius in stoliczkae


River valleys in desert and semi-desert. Prefers saxaul but also found in poplar and tamarisk.



Feeds on seeds (particulary of saxaul), takes also insects. Nestlings are fed with insects.
Forages in mixed flocks with other sparrows.


Breeding season from May to July. Breeds solitary or in loose colonies often mixed with House Sparrow and Eurasian Tree Sparrow. The nest is a loose doomed structure made of grass. It's usually placed in a hole or hollow in a tree, sometimes in the nest of a bird of prey, a earth bank or an isolated building. Lays 4 - 6 eggs.


A sedentary species. Some populations may winter south of breeding range.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, and D Christie, eds. 2009. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8496553507

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