House Sparrow: Least Wanted Backyard Birds

Updated: Dec. 07, 2022

House sparrows aren't popular among birders, and for good reason. Learn more about them to better deal with these birds at your feeders and nest boxes.

What Does a Male and Female House Sparrow Look Like?

Two House SparrowsPaulFleet/Getty Images
Male and female house sparrows

The male house sparrow has a gray and rusty crown with pale cheeks and a black bib; the female is rather plain with dusty brown overall coloring, strong stripes on her back and patches of pale feathers behind her eyes.

Learn all about sparrows: What birders should know.

Are House Sparrows Invasive?

252406845 1 Mike Dickie Bnb Bypc2020Courtesy Mike Dickie
A male and female eastern bluebird defend their nest box against a male house sparrow.

Yes, house sparrows are an invasive bird species. A nonnative to North America, they were introduced from Europe to New York in 1852. Birders tend to dislike them because they often kill native birds in order to take over their nesting sites (i.e. bluebird boxes or purple martin houses).

If you notice that house sparrows are having a negative impact on native birds nesting in your yard, there are methods you can employ to discourage them. Since they are invasive, it is legal to remove their nests. You might also try plugging the birdhouse hole until the sparrows move on.

Meet the white-crowned sparrow and white-throated sparrow.

What Do House Sparrows Eat?

These birds have a plant-based diet and tend to focus on seeds; they especially enjoy cracked corn and millet. They also might munch on flower petals or leaves. House sparrows aren’t particularly picky about what they eat, though — you may find them everywhere from at your feeders to munching on crumbs on the grounds of an outdoor restaurant.

To get rid of them, put your feeders away until they move on. House sparrows won’t stick around where there isn’t an easy food source.

Here’s how to get rid of blackbirds and grackles.

House Sparrow Call

house sparrowCourtesy Nola Williams
House sparrows are not known for their songs.

This species is not known as a particularly musical songbird. House sparrows give a short, simple chirp call.

Plus, learn how to identify wrens vs sparrows.

House Sparrow Nest Habits

house sparrows in a birdhouseCourtesy Vicki Fotheringham
House sparrow fledglings in a birdhouse

Nests tend to be loosely built and messy, incorporating typical nesting materials like twigs as well as scraps of general debris. They typically nest in cavities in trees or other structures, but they’ll occasionally build their nests in more open, unusual spaces like streetlights or gas station roofs.

House sparrows build nests year-round. They display fierce aggression during nesting season and compete with other birds for nesting sites, especially bluebirds.

House Sparrow In WinterBill Koplitz/Getty Images
House sparrows in winter on a branch

Birds & Blooms reader Juli Seyfried asks, “The sparrows nesting under our roof overhang left during fall. Where did they go?”

Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman say, “House sparrows, which were introduced to North America, often nest in the crannies and holes around the eaves of houses, unlike native sparrows. Although house sparrows are not migratory, they do move around with the seasons. After they finish nesting and raising young, they usually gather in small flocks and roam the neighborhood or countryside. Throughout the winter, the flocks concentrate wherever they find a good supply of food.”

Next, learn how to identify a chipping sparrow and an American tree sparrow.