The house or English sparrow, a non-native species, has flourished in the Americas since its human introduction in the mid-19th century.

The house sparrow, Passer domesticus , is a native of Eurasia and Africa that long ago learned to live closely with humans. It was deliberately introduced to the Americas in 1854 by homesick immigrants from Europe who wanted a reminder of their homelands. Because of human introduction, the house sparrow has an almost worldwide distribution.

The house sparrow is an abundant sparrow-like bird. They have generally brown plumage and are about 5.75 inches (14.5 cm) total length. Males have a striped back, the crown of the head is gray while the back of the neck is brown. Mature males are also characterized by their black bib. Females and juveniles are brown with striped backs, unspotted buff bellies and a buff eye stripe.

Range and Habitat:
The house sparrow is common throughout the United States, but is most abundant near people and their structures. In some situations house sparrow populations can reach true pest proportions.

The young are fed on insects until they are almost full grown. Young birds are often seen following and begging for food from their parents for up to two weeks after they leave the nest.
Adults primarily feed on seeds and grain. They are one of the dominant species at bird feeders--where they feed on white, red, and German golden millet; and canary seed found in commercial wild bird seed mix. House sparrows will eat other types of seed as well: including wildflower seeds, sunflower, and safflower seeds, and tree seeds especially from sweet gum. They will also feed on grain products such as bread crumbs and livestock feed.
The willingness of the house sparrow to feed close to people can cause problems at picnic shelters and outdoor restaurants.

Nesting and Reproduction:
The nest of the house sparrow is an untidy mass of dried grass, leaves, pine straw, string, paper, and feathers. The nests are usually built in bird houses, soffits and attics, behind signs, behind or above pipes and ductwork entering buildings, in crevices into wall voids, behind shake siding, in or on the rafters of large buildings like warehouses, barns and livestock buildings and in the forks of branchy trees. The nests usually fill the crevices they are located in and may be as large as 1 to 1.5 feet (30 to 46 cm) in diameter. House sparrows can breed year-round in the southern states, but most clutches are laid between March and September. They can have several clutches per year. Each clutch contains 3 to 5 heavily speckled white eggs. The incubation period is 10-14 days. The young remain in the nest until they are almost the size of their mother; about 15 days.

Problems and Solutions:

Aesthetic and Economic Problems
The primary problems associated with house sparrows are caused by their close proximity to people. The unsightly nests and white droppings are generally considered undesirable. The dry plant material in the nest can be a fire hazard, especially inside lighted signs. When birds occupy a warehouse and defecate on stored goods this becomes an expensive nuisance if retailers refuse to accept contaminated goods. The uric acid (white material) in bird droppings is both unsightly and can damage the finish on automobiles. Large populations of sparrows in agricultural situations can cause economic losses due to consumption and contamination of livestock feed.

Health-related Problems:
The most common problem associated with house sparrows is bird mites invading the living space of the house during or after the nesting season. Bird mites--like northern fowl mite and tropical fowl mite--will bite humans and cause a small pustule, similar to a chigger bite. House sparrows are also important reservoirs and vectors of reintroduction of fowl mites into treated poultry houses. Sparrow nests can also be a source of stick-tight fleas, soft ticks, bed bugs, and dermestid (carpet) beetles. House sparrows have been associated with numerous disease organisms transmissible to humans and livestock. These include the following: Nine bacterial diseases including salmonellosis (Salmonella food poisoning) and tuberculosis; the fungal disease Sarcosporidiosis ; three protozoan diseases including Toxoplasmosis and Coccidiosis; Chlamydiosi s; nine viral diseases including eastern equine, St. Louis, Venezuelan, and western equine encephalitis, Newcastle disease and fowl pox of poultry, and transmissible gastroenteritis of swine (hog cholera); three species of parasitic nematodes of poultry Tetramares (2 sp.) and Acuaria spiralis ; and the parasitic fluke of poultry, Collyriculum faba . House sparrows are generally a more serious disease vector to livestock, especially poultry and egg producers, than to humans. However the presence of house sparrows in areas where food is prepared or people eat, such as picnic areas and outdoor restaurants, should be a cause for concern about the spread of Salmonella bacteria.