• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Swainson's Sparrow - BirdForum Opus

Photo by volker sthamer
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 2011
Passer swainsonii



  • Darkish grey head, neck and underparts
  • Small white patch on belly, indistinct paler patch on throat
  • Dull brown mantle and back
  • Chestnut rump
  • Brown upperwing with cinnamon-red on shoulder and narrow white wingbar
    • the wing bar does not always appear to be present in adults and may be age-related
  • Brown tail
  • Black bill
Adult right, Juvenile left (both lacking white wing patch)
Photo by volker sthamer
Langano, Ethiopia

Sexes similar.
Juveniles lack white wing-bar.

Similar species

Differs from Northern Grey-headed Sparrow in being larger and darker, lacking clear white throat patch and having more prominent white wing-bar. Differs from Parrot-billed Sparrow in being smaller and less dark, having a smaller bill and a smaller white wingbar.


Found in coastal and southeast Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, northern Somalia and northern Kenya.
Common in most of its range, rare in Sudan.


This is a monotypic species[1].

Forms a superspecies with Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Parrot-billed Sparrow, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and Swahili Sparrow. All are often treated as conspecific.


Found in all habitats but dense forest: open country with bushes and scrub, cultivated land, towns and villages. Occurs at 1400 - 4500m in Ethiopia, but also at sea-level in the north of its range.


Feeds on seeds of grasses and cultivated cereals. Nestlings are fed with insects.
Forages in piars or small groups, outside breeding season also seen in larger flocks.
Breeding may take place all year, coinciding with rains. The nest is a dome with a side entrance, made of dry grass. It's placed in a tree, sometimes in a tree hole or a hole in a building. Does also take abandoned nests of other species like swallows. Lays 3 - 6 eggs.
A nomadic species.


  1. Clements, JF. 2010. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to December 2010. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019. Spreadsheet available at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/Clements%206.5.xls/view
  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

Recommended Citation

External Links