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How Long Do Sparrows Live? 4 Key Factors Affecting Lifespan


These brown-streaked avians seem to be everywhere in North America, more so because they love human settlements so much that they hang around feeders waiting for seeds. Others, such as the house sparrow, spread out beyond the continent to inhabit South America.

You can tell sparrow species apart by their size, feather colors, calls, and habitats. Some of these garden birds, such as the Eurasian tree sparrow, aren't native to North America. But since they are here now, let's learn more about them.

So, how long does a sparrow live?

I don't know - Chandler from FRIENDS

What Is The Lifespan Of A Sparrow?

Looking at Old World sparrows, the average life span of a sparrow is between three and five years.

This average is higher in captive birds due to factors we'll mention later.

For instance, how long do house sparrows live in captivity and in the wild? Though their lifespan is between three and five years, the oldest wild bird was a female aged 15 and nine months, and one captive bird lived for 23 years.

But their lifespan isn't as impressive as that of the Laysan albatross because one bird identified in 2016 belonging to the latter was 65 years old.

One of the reasons for the bird's old age was that Laysan albatrosses breed later than other avians, at about 8 to 9 years old.

Here are some of the maximum lifespans recorded by the Bird Banding Laboratory of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.

  • House sparrow - 13 years and four months
  • Song sparrow - 11 years and four months
  • White-crowned sparrow - 13 years and four months

The Cornell Lab notes that the oldest chipping sparrow, a native bird, was ten years and 11 months, while the oldest black-throated bird was six years old.

How Long Do Sparrows Live? Factors That Dictate Bird Lifespan

After mentioning the average age of sparrows, it's only wise to understand the issues causing a decline in the sparrow population.

1. Predators

All sparrows have to look out for predators.

The backyard environment makes it easy for predators to pounce on unsuspecting avians, and your cat is one of the attackers. Even crows and grackles pop in for some sparrows the same way they do when a tree swallow comes to your backyard. These predators may eat a baby bird, egg, or adult sparrow.

One way of addressing this dilemma is by knowing how to build a bird feeding station to safeguard the sparrows.

Another way is to keep squirrels out of bird feeders. Squirrels are attracted to most birds so you have to keep this in mind when taking care of sparrows or any kind of bird especially if you're inclined to build them a birdhouse!

2. Bird Disease

These bird species are more likely to suffer in an outbreak because they fly in flocks and roost in colonies.

Parasites like chicken mites are also a menace to them in summer. 

3. Aggressive Behavior

The aggressive behavior of house sparrows (Passer domesticus) can cause injury as they attack other sparrows.

A male house sparrow dominates a female in winter and fall. It also dominates a male bird with lighter plumage during the mating season. Plus, there's a relationship between a decrease in this English sparrow with an increase in the house finch population (and vice versa) because the two species compete. It's such a small avian, between 5.9 and 6.7 inches long, but a rather destructive and noisy one. 

These habits may be the reason the house sparrow population is declining.

4. Humans

There are interesting facts about some non-native sparrows. For instance, the Eurasian tree sparrow was brought to the U.S to create a familiar environment for European immigrants. The house sparrow also had a mission in New York when it was introduced in 1851. Its function was to control caterpillars in order to save the basswood trees.

However, these species took over backyards and became a nuisance to some homeowners, more so because the house sparrow turns any building into a nesting site. 

If you are planning to rid your house of these "squatters," then you have to get them a sturdy and squirrel-proof bird house so they could nest there instead!

Sparrows aren't limited in North America as a nuisance. New Zealand, too, believes they are pests just like pigeons and starlings.

Some homeowners kill sparrows by trapping them or using pesticides. Further, pesticides make sparrows lose weight so much that they miss the migration, and the population declines because it takes longer for the birds to find mates.

That's why birds in captivity live longer because they don't experience the challenges listed here. They don't have to worry about predators, habitat loss, or the aggressive behavior of other avians.

It's also the same case for some other bird species. For instance, African grey parrots in captivity live for about 60 years but only 20 or so years in the wild.

Tips To Reduce Sparrow Deaths

There may be thousands of sparrows in your state, but the number dwindles whenever one sparrow dies. Since sparrows love human settlements, a birder has to act as a wildlife rehabilitator to conserve these avians. Therefore:

Leave Nesting Birds Alone

The nestlings may die as you remove a sparrow nest from your backyard, or the breeding pair may abandon the home if you're constantly interfering with bird activity. If you don't want them to build nests, offer nest boxes. 

They may also need nesting material like fine grass and twigs to make the birdhouse comfortable for a young bird.

In addition to giving them a house, you have to keep it clean to prevent contamination. Even feeders need cleaning and disinfecting.

Protect Sparrows From Predators

If your bird feeder isn't squirrel-proof, sparrows are at risk. Make sure that you mount the feeder away from cats, too.

Watch This!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do sparrows mate for life?

Even though a pair can mate every consecutive breeding season, it might eventually breed elsewhere. For example, though house sparrows mate for life, one of the birds can find a replacement when the other goes away.

Can you keep a sparrow as a pet bird?

A wild sparrow can make a good pet sparrow because these species are social. However, not all sparrows can be bred and held in captivity, as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects the native birds -- meaning you can't hunt, capture or own such birds, their eggs, or nests.

The native tree sparrows include the grasshopper sparrow, Lincoln's sparrow, chipping sparrow, black-throated sparrow, and the American tree sparrow. This treaty doesn't cover non-native species like the house sparrow or the European starling.


As we conclude, how long do sparrows live in the wild?

The average life span of a sparrow is three to five years. Some species, such as the grasshopper sparrow, can live for seven years. Based on the facts we mentioned earlier, it’s clear that sparrows don’t always conform to the predicted life expectancy as some can live for up to 13 years.

Lastly, a captive may live longer than its wild counterpart because the former doesn't endure challenges like habitat loss, climatic changes, and predatory attacks compared to the latter.

Read Also: How Long do Crows Live?

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