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Spanish Sparrow - BirdForum Opus

Alternative name: Willow Sparrow

Nominate subspecies : Male in breeding plumage
Photo by scottishdude
Lesvos, Greece, April 2010
Passer hispaniolensis


15 - 16cm (6-6¼ in)


Nominate subspecies Female
Photo by A. Meir
Eilat, Israel, October 2008
  • Bright chestnut crown
  • Broad black bib meeting bold plack pattern on underside and black shoulders
  • Whitish cheeks
  • Narrow white supercilium
  • Black on mantle and shoulders


  • Almost identical to female House Sparrow and usually impossible to separate
  • Slightly bigger bill, paler belly and sometimes hint of grey streaking on whiter underparts

Juveniles are similar to females but duller.
Italiae (Italian Sparrow) is sometimes considered conspecific with this species. It has the same head pattern but less heavy black streaks on mantle and black only on upper breast.


Italian Sparrow: a subspecies of Spanish Sparrow, House Sparrow or a full species?
Photo by LECURU
Como, Italy, June 2006

Breeds in western Spain, Portugal, Sardinia (Italy), northern Africa, the Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands, Madeira, Balkans, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel and east to Iran, south Kazakhstan and northwest China.
Winters to the Arabian Peninsula and northwest India and Pakistan.
Italiae would breed in Italy, southern Switzerland, Corsica, Sicily and Crete.
Common to locally abundant.

Resident in parts of its range, migratory or nomadic in others.


The Italian Sparrow is sometimes regarded as subspecies of this species.
Forms a superspecies with House Sparrow and Italian Sparrow.


Wintering pair ssp transcaspicus
Photo by Alok Tewari
Gurgaon, India, January 2017

Two subspecies recognized[1]:

  • P. h. hispaniolensis:
  • P. h. transcaspicus:


Often in moist, humid areas near water and with trees and shrub. Associated with cultivated land and extends into urban areas where House Sparrow is lacking (eg. Canary Islands or Malta).


Usually seen in flocks which may be very large.


Feeds on seeds of grasses, cultivated crops ans low herbs. Takes also invertebrates. Nestlings are fed with insects.


Juvenile, Subspecies hispaniolensis
Photo by Scridifer
Kamchia, Bulgaria, May 2017

Breeding season from April to August in the western parts of its range. A colonial breeder, sometimes with several thousand pairs. The nest is a loosely woven spherical structure made of grass and placed in a tree or in lower part of a large nest of a bird of prey, crow, heron or White Stork. Lays 2 - 6 eggs which are incubated for 12 days. The chicks fledge about 14 days old.


One below is the recording of calls given by a foraging party of more than a dozen individuals, M & F, subspecies P. h. transcaspicus :

Recording by Alok Tewari
Recorded in their wintering area, Ouside Sultanpur National Park, Dist. Gurgaon, Haryana, India, February-2017. Background calls by House Crow are also heard.


  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
  3. Rasmussen, PC and JC Anderton. 2005. Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8487334672
  4. Discussion thread about the taxonomy of Italian Sparrow

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External Links

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