Cape Sparrow

Passer melanurus

The Cape Sparrow is widespread and common in South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia, extending marginally into Zimbabwe and Angola. The Cape Sparrow’s preferred natural habitat is grasslands and semi-arid thornveld and scrubland, particularly in or near wooded areas along drainage lines. They often live in close association with human settlements, and as such is one of the most commonly seen species in suburban parks and gardens as well as on farms and vineyards, where they can become pests. It is believed that this trait has aided both in the expansion of their distribution range and an increase in the populations size.  The IUCN considers it to be of least concern. Cape Sparrows feed predominantly on seeds, augmenting their diet with insects, fruit, flowers and nectar.

Adult Cape Sparrows measure about 15cm long, and weigh between 22 and 36g.

Cape Sparrows are usually seen in pairs or small family groups, but they do at times assemble in large, nomadic flocks of up to 200 outside of the peak breeding season, which stretches through summer (though breeding has been recorded throughout the year). They often associate with other seed-eating bird species while foraging. Monogamous pairs nest alone or in colonies of up to 100 pairs, and can raise several broods in a season. Their nests are untidy collections of grass, stems and other pliable plant parts and litter, hollowed out on the inside with a single side entrance and lined with soft feathers and material, built by both sexes in trees, bushes, inside disused swallow or weaver nests, or under the roofs of buildings. Clutches consist of between 2 and 6 eggs, incubated by both parents for 2 weeks. The chicks leave the nest when they’re around two weeks old, having been fed on insects (mostly caterpillars) by both parents up to that point and become fully independent at between 1 and 2 months of age.

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31 thoughts on “Cape Sparrow

  1. BETH

    We have sparrows in India too, but they tend to be more attached to people. I believe Indians call them house sparrows. Our daughter and son-in-law had an apartment without AC and of course windows were open day and night. A pair of sparrows took up with them and entertained them often. The poor little female fretted and worried that the male was so often seen admiring himself in a mirror above the dining room basin. She woud fly at him and then fly out to do her business again. She built the nest above the kitchen storage area and fed the babies. She was the one to do all the running for the family while the male sat and admired himself in a mirrow.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      The House Sparrow is actually one of the world’s most widespread species, Beth. You are bound to find them wherever there are humans. They aren’t indigenous to many parts of the world, but spread all over thanks to merchant shipping.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Hierdie outjies is nie baie volop in die Krugerwildtuin nie, maar hul nefies die gryskopmossies is wel. Geniet die naweek in die bos terdee, Una, en kyk hoe bevredigend die voelkyk kan wees!

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  2. loisajay

    This gave me a chuckle. I don’t think I have ever read about a bird’s nest being an ‘untidy collection’–but I love the way it sounds! I do picture a rather cozy little place.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Imagine a big tangle of knitting wool, after the cat got hold of it, Lois. Then add copious amounts of hair, feathers, leaves, grass, etc, as if the dog dragged that tangle of wool through the back yard. That would give you some approximation of their “untidy collection” of an abode… 😀

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  3. Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    It’s always comforting to compare similar species and wonder about the original prototypes! Just today I admired the common house sparrows, frowned upon by many, but to me they are cute and sweet!

    You’ve given us a nice assortment of your very handsome cape sparrows; thanks, it was a nice tonic for my weary eyes!

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