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Eurasian Tree Sparrow - BirdForum Opus

Revision as of 17:02, 2 December 2023 by Njlarsen (talk | contribs) (taxon, refs)
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Photo © by rayh
Carsington Water, Derbyshire, England, February 2004

Alternative names: Tree Sparrow; European Tree Sparrow

Passer montanus


14 - 15 cm. (5½-6 in.) A small, neat-looking sparrow:

  • Chestnut crown and nape
  • White cheeks with a black spot
  • Small black bib not expanding on breast
  • Narrow white neck-collar
  • Black-streaked brown back
  • Distinct white wing-bar
  • Dusky underparts

Sexes are alike. Juvenile is duller with grayish central crown patch blending into reddish brown on the sides of crown and indistinct dark ear-patch.


The subspecies mainly differ in plumage tones and in size. Those in arid regions tend to be paler (eg. dilutus), those in tropical humid areas darker (eg. malaccensis)

Similar Species

House Sparrow has a grey head and lacks the white cheeks.


Map-Eurasian Tree Sparrow.jpg
Widespread from Europe east over Russia to China and southeast Asia. Introduced populations in Australia and the US (St. Louis, Missouri).

In Europe breeds in coastal Ireland and Britain (but rather uncommon in the north), and from western France, north and eastern Iberia east across Europe to the Urals and Caspian reaching coastal and southern Scandinavia, the Baltic States and the White Sea. In the south occurs on the Mediterranean coasts of Spain and France, Italy and Sicily, the Balkans, patchily in west, central and northern Turkey and the Caucasus. Formerly bred in the Faroes and has bred Morocco, recently in Malta and Gozo] introduced to Sardinia. Rare breeder in the Canary Islands, found only on Gran Canaria.
Resident or partial migrant over most of range and winter visitor to the larger Mediterranean islands. Vagrants recorded in Gibraltar and North-West Africa, Egypt and Israel.


Passer montanus; year-round
Maps/Texts consulted3


Photo © by Macswede
Agesta, near Stockholm, Sweden, 25 August 2012


Clements recognizes these subspecies[1]:

  • P. m. montanus: Europe to north Africa, northern Mongolia, Manchuria and Sea of Okhotsk
  • P. m. dybowskii: Eastern Asia (lower Amur River to Manchuria and northern Korea)
  • P. m. transcaucasicus: Southern Caucasus (Black Sea coast of Georgia to northern Iran)
    • Generally duller and greyer above, whiter below
  • P. m. kansuensis: Western China (Zaidam basin and northern Gansu)
  • P. m. dilutus: Transcaspia to western Pakistan, Gobi Desert and western China (Xinjiang)
  • P. m. tibetanus: southern and eastern Tibetan Plateau and central China (east to southeastern Qinghai and western Sichuan)
  • P. m. saturatus: east central and southeastern China, Taiwan, southern South Korea, southern Kuril Islands, and Japan south to the Ryukyu Islands
  • P. m. hepaticus: extreme northeastern India (southeastern Arunachal Pradesh) and adjacent southern China (southeastern Xizang)
  • P. m. malaccensis: Central Myanmar, Malaya, Hainan, Vietnam and western Indonesia

Subspecies iubilaeus and obscuratus are both considered synonyms of subspecies saturatus.

Photo © by Trevor Stevenson
Staffordshire, England, 6 November 2011


Open woodland and along woodland edges, parkland and farmland with copses and hedgerows. In parts of the range quite frequent in suburbs or even in urban areas.


Highly gregarious, this bird prefers the vicinity of humans.


Feeds mainly on seed of herbs, grasses and cereals. Takes also animal food like spiders and insects during breeding season.


Secondary cavity nester. Not aggressive or pugnacious like the House Sparrow, but may attempt to claim a box used by another bird. The clutch consists of four to six eggs which are quite variable in their markings. There may be a second brood.


Listen to Eurasian Tree Sparrow sound clip


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2022. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2022. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F, D Donsker, and P Rasmussen (Eds). 2023. IOC World Bird List (v 13.2). Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.13.2. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
  3. 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
  4. The Observer's Book of Birds' Eggs ISBN 0723200602
  5. Barlow, Jon C. and Sheridan N. Leckie. (2000). Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus), The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/eutspa
  6. Summers-Smith, D. (2017). Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from http://www.hbw.com/node/60946 on 2 June 2017).

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