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Northern Grey-headed Sparrow - BirdForum Opus

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Photo © by scottishdude
The Gambia, March 2010

Alternative names: Common Grey-headed Sparrow; Grey-headed Sparrow

Passer griseus


14 - 15cm.

  • Ash-grey head and neck
  • Grey-brown mantle and upper back
  • Dull chestnut rump and lower back
  • Cinnamon-red shoulder
  • Rusty upperwing-coverts
  • Variable white inner median coverts, creating a white patch
  • Brown tail
  • White chin and throat
  • Black to brownish-horn bill

Sexes similar. Juveniles are duller and browner and have no white in wing-coverts.

Similar species

May be confused with Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Swahili Sparrow, Swainson's Sparrow and Parrot-billed Sparrow. Differs mainly by sharply defined white throat patch.


Widespread in central and western Africa.
Common in its range and currently spreading to east and southeast.


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


Three subspecies recognized:


Occurs in grassland savanna, light woodland, cultivated areas and in and around human habitations. Found from sea-level up to 2500m.


Feeds mainly on seeds of grasses and cultivated cereals. Takes also fruits and household scrap. Nestlings are fed with insects.
Usually seen in pairs or small groups, outside breeding season in larger flocks.
Breeds all year, coinciding with local rains. Prefers loose colonies. The nest is a dome with a side entrance, made of dry grass. It's placed in a tree, a tree hole or a hole in a building. Lays 3 - 4 eggs.
A nomadic species.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. 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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