Cape Sparrow

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Common Name: Cape Sparrow
Scientific Name: Passer melanurus

Size: 5.5 inches (14-16 cm)

Habitat: Africa; found in southern Africa from Angola south to South Africa and east to Lesotho.

Cape sparrow’s original habitats were the semi-arid savanna, thornveld, and light woodland areas-- typical of southern Africa. When settled agriculture arrived in its range about a thousand years ago, it adapted to cultivated land. Since the arrival of settlement, it has moved into towns. The Cape Sparrow prefers habitats with an annual rainfall of less than 75 cm (30 in), though in desert areas it is usually found near watercourses or watering holes. While it occurs in urban areas, it prefers parks, gardens, and other open spaces, and has a low reproductive success in more built-up areas.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: Unknown amount of mature individuals. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Diet: Primarily granivorous, and also eats soft plant parts and insects.

Nesting: The breeding male has a mostly black head, but with a broad white mark on each side, curling from behind the eye to the throat. On the throat a narrow black band connects the black bib of the breast to black of the head. Under parts are greyish, darker on the flanks. The back of the male's neck is dark grey, and its back and shoulders are bright chestnut. The male has a white and a black wing bar below its shoulders, and flight feathers and tail streaked grey and black. The female is plumaged like the male, but is duller and has a grey head with a different pattern from the male, though it bears a hint of the pale head markings of the male. The juvenile is like the female, but young males show black on the head from an early age.

Cape Sparrows breed in colonies and gather in large nomadic flocks while not breeding. The nest can be constructed in a variety of locations, in a tree or a bush in a hole or an empty nest of another species. A clutch contains three or four eggs, and both parents are involved in breeding from nest building to feeding young.

Cool Facts: An unusual social behavior has been described from Cape Sparrows in Johannesburg. Groups of 20–30 birds separate from larger flocks and stand close together on the ground with tails on the ground and heads held high. These groups sometimes move in an unconcerted fashion by hopping slowly. Often birds will fly up and hover 30–60 cm (12–24 in) above the ground. During these gatherings birds are silent and are never antagonistic. This behavior’s significance is unknown, and it is not reported in any other sparrow.

The Cape Sparrow has been featured on several coins of the South African rand, and on stamps from Lesotho and the Central African Republic.

Found in Songbird Remix Sparrows of the World

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