Russet Sparrow

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Common Name: Russet Sparrow
Scientific Name: Passer rutilans

Size: 5.5-5.9 inches (14-15 cm)

Habitat: Asia; found in parts of eastern Asia and in the Himalayas. In the Himalayas the Russet Sparrow breeds from the far northeast of India through southeastern Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh to Kashmir and Nuristan in Afghanistan. Here, the Russet Sparrow makes short movements to lower altitudes between November and April in many areas. In eastern Asia, the Russet Sparrow is found in Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, a small part of mainland Russia, Japan, southern Korea, and part of northern China, where it is mostly migratory. It is distributed through southern China and Taiwan, and the mountainous parts of Burma, southern Northeast India, Laos, and Vietnam, where it is mostly resident. The Russet Sparrow also occurs as a winter visitor in southern Japan, the further south of China, and northern Thailand. In eastern Asia, the autumn migration occurs between August and November.

The Russet Sparrow is the typical sparrow of human habitations in towns where the House and Eurasian Tree sparrows are absent. In the southern part of its range, the Russet Sparrow prefers higher altitudes, but in the north it breeds by the sea.

The Russet Sparrow appears to be abundant in most habitats across most of its very large range, and in the some areas it is among the most common birds.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: Unknown amount of mature individuals. Populations appear to be stable. The species is described as common or locally common, although scarce in some parts of its range.

Diet: Seeds of herbs and grains, but it also eats berries and insects, particularly during the breeding season. While this diet makes it a minor pest in agricultural areas, it also makes it a predator of insect pests.

Nesting: The breeding male is bright russet or cinnamon red on its upper parts from its crown to its rump, with a black streaking on its mantle. It has a small black bib and black around its eye, separated from the russet of its crown by a very thin white supercilium, a stripe running from the bill to the rear of the head. The side of its neck and cheek are off-white, and it’s under parts are pale grey or washed with yellow, varying geographically. Shoulders and greater coverts are chestnut, and its median coverts are black at the base with white at the tips. The rest of the wing is light brown with black tinges. Its tail is blackish brown, edged with ashy brown. The non-breeding male differs little from the breeding male, being paler with more orange upper parts. The female has mostly pale brown upper parts, and pale grey under parts, so it resembles the female House Sparrow. It differs from the House Sparrow in its slightly darker, russet-tinged plumage. It has a conspicuous cream supercilium from above its eye nearly around its head, and a bold dark brown stripe through its eye. It has mostly greyish brown wings and a back streaked with black and buff. The juvenile is similar to the female, though more pale and sandy. As the male reaches its first winter, it resembles the adult, differing in less bold chestnut and a dusky bib.

While breeding, it is not social, as its nests are dispersed. It forms flocks when not breeding, although it associates with other bird species infrequently. Its nest is located in a tree cavity, or a hole in a cliff or building. The male chooses the nest site before finding a mate and uses the nest for courtship display. The typical clutch contains five or six whitish eggs. Both sexes incubate and feed the young.

Cool Facts: Three subspecies are recognized, differing chiefly in the yellowness of their under parts. The subspecies P. r. rutilans and P. r. intensior breed in parts of eastern Asia, where they are usually found in light woodland, and the larger subspecies P. r. cinnamomeus, breeds in the Himalayas, where it is usually associated with terrace cultivation.

The Russet Sparrow is known well enough in the Himalayas to have a distinct name in some languages, and is depicted in Japanese art.

Found in Songbird Remix Sparrows of the World

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