Spanish Sparrow

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Common Name: Spanish or Willow Sparrow
Scientific Name: Passer hispaniolensis

Size: 6 inches (15-16 cm)

Habitat: Europe, Africa and Asia. The Spanish Sparrow has a highly complex distribution in the Mediterranean region, Macaronesia, and southwest to central Asia. It breeds mostly in a band of latitude about fifteen degrees wide, from the Danube valley and the Aral Sea in the north to Libya and central Iran in the south. Its range has expanded greatly by natural colonization over the last two centuries, in the Balkans, where it reached Romania, Serbia, and Moldova from 1950 onwards; and in Macaronesia, where its range expansion has been attributed to introductions and travel by ship, but was more likely natural colonization by migrating birds. Vagrants can occur widely, as far north as Scotland and Norway.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 17,000,000-74,000,000 mature individuals. The European population of the Spanish Sparrow comprises between 2,800,000 and 6,200,000 breeding pairs. There have been population decreases in some parts of Europe, but in other areas the population has increased and the species is not seriously threatened.

Diet: Seeds of grains and other grasses, also eating leaves, fruits, and other plant materials, and occasionally insects.

Nesting: It is slightly larger and heavier than House Sparrows, and also has a slightly longer and stouter bill. The male is similar to the House Sparrow in plumage, but differs in it’s under parts heavily streaked with black, a chestnut rather than grey crown, and white rather than grey cheeks. The female is effectively inseparable from House Sparrow in its plumage, which is grey-brown overall but more boldly marked. The female has light streaking on its sides, a pale cream supercilium, and broad cream streaks on its back.

The Spanish Sparrow nests in large colonies of closely spaced or even multiple shared nests. Nests are usually placed in trees or bushes, amongst branches or underneath the nests of larger birds such as White Storks. Colonies may hold from ten pairs to hundreds of thousands of pairs. Each pair lays 3–8 eggs, which hatch in 12 days, with the chicks fledging when about 14 days old. Males spend more time constructing nests than females.

Cool Facts: The Spanish Sparrow is a close relative of the House Sparrow in the genus Passer and the sparrow family Passeridae. Its taxonomy is greatly complicated by the "biological mix-up" it forms with the House Sparrow in the Mediterranean. In most of the Mediterranean, one or both of the two species occurs, with only a limited degree of hybridization. On the Italian Peninsula and Corsica, the two species are replaced by the Italian Sparrow (Passer italiae), a puzzling type of sparrow apparently intermediate between the Spanish Sparrow and the House Sparrow.

Phylogenetic studies of nuclear mitochondrial DNA pseudogenes show that the House Sparrow is closely related genetically to the Italian Sparrow but not the Spanish Sparrow.  

Found in Songbird Remix Sparrows of the World

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