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Great Sparrow - BirdForum Opus

Revision as of 21:01, 28 August 2023 by Jmorlan (talk | contribs) (Added female image. Copyright, male/female labels, dates.)
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Alternative names: Great Rufous Sparrow; Southern Rufous Sparrow; Namibia Rufous Sparrow (benguellensis)

Male. Photo © by nkgray
Hotazel, Northern Cape, South Africa, 10 July 2006
Female. Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Avis Dam, Windhoek, Namibia, 18 July 2023
Passer motitensis


15 - 16cm. One of the largest sparrows.

  • Blue-grey crown and nape
  • Black lores
  • Chestnut crescent-shaped band from eye to side of neck, encircling paler grey ear-coverts
  • Small black bib on chin and central throat
  • Chestnut upperparts
  • Bodly streaked black mantle and inner scapulars
  • Blackish to dark brown upperwing
  • Broad white tips on medain coverts
  • Dark brown tail
  • Pale grey underparts

Females have the same plumage pattern but are duller and the chestnut on the head is replaced by creamy buff. Juveniles resemble females but look more washed-out.

Similar species

Similar to Kenya Rufous Sparrow but ranges don't overlap. Also similar to the introduced House Sparrow, but it's larger, the colours are brighter, and the rump is rufous rather than grey.


Southern Africa: found in Angola, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho and eSwatini.

Locally common.



Passer motitensis has three subspecies:1

  • P. m. benguellensis
  • P. m. subsolanus
  • P. m. motitensis

Some authorities include Kenya Rufous Sparrow (and sometimes also Iago Sparrow and Socotra Sparrow) in this species and call this species Rufous Sparrow.


Dry, wooded savanna. Not associated with man.


Less sociable than most sparrows and usually encountered in pairs.


Feeds on seeds of grass and cultivated cereals. Nestlings are fed with insects.


Breeding season from September to February. A solitary breeder. The nest is a dome of the size of a rugby football with an entrance at the top end and made of grass. It's placed in a thorny tree, sometimes in a rock crevice. Lays 3 - 6 eggs.

A nomadic species.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, B.L. Sullivan, C. L. Wood, and D. Roberson. 2013. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.8., with updates to August 2013. 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

Recommended Citation

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