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Sparrows: Native and non-native. Do you know the difference? Tips on managing invasive species.

When most people think about sparrows, the first one that comes to mind is the ever-present House Sparrow. These are the little guys you see in every McDonald’s parking lot, picking at stray French fries, nesting under supermarket signs, invading bluebird and martin houses and pretty much being a little pest. These birds were introduced into the U.S. in the middle 1800’s and have become invasive to say the least. House Sparrows belong to a group of birds called Old World Sparrows, which are native to Eurasia and Africa.

But what about the Native Sparrows of North America?   New World, or American, Sparrows are a large group of small, brown or grayish perching birds. They range in size from 4½ inches to 8 inches. Some can be found along roadsides, in grassy clearings and open woods, while others require more specialized habitats, such as wetlands or along the seacoast.

Sparrows are seed eaters and are invaluable in helping to control weed seeds, but they also eat insects, insect eggs and the buds of trees, as well as some foliage and fruit.

Native Sparrows are sometimes overlooked. Maybe because they’re so common, but maybe it’s because they can be very difficult to tell apart.

The non-native House Sparrow can easily be confused with other very similar looking native sparrows and some finches.

Now that you know the difference between native and non-native sparrows, here are some tips on managing invasive House Sparrows and other non-native birds.

Many people ask what can be done to deter or prevent the invasive non-native House Sparrows from taking over Bluebird nest boxes and Purple Martin houses. They out-compete native cavity-nesting birds, and are known to destroy nests and eggs, and kill nestlings and adults while taking over an occupied nest site. Click here for information and tips on managing and controlling the population of the invasive House Sparrow and other non-native birds.




We believe proper wildlife rehabilitation is an extremely biologically and ecologically responsible attitude toward all living things. Rehabilitators are an important part of returning animals to the wild to reduce the negative impact humans have had on them and their environment.


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