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A photo of a Italian Sparrow (Passer italiae), male
Italian Sparrow, Male

Italian Sparrow

Passer italiae

The Italian sparrow, Passer italiae, also known as the cisalpine sparrow, is a small, robust bird. Males are distinguished by a chestnut crown, nape, and sides of the head, with white cheeks and a distinctive black bib on the throat and chest. Females resemble the house sparrow but lack the black streaks found on the underparts of the Spanish sparrow. Both sexes exhibit a seasonal variation in weight, being heavier in winter.

Identification Tips

To identify the Italian sparrow, look for the male's bright chestnut upperparts and pale grey underparts, which are free of the black streaking seen in the Spanish sparrow. The female is similar to the female house sparrow, making it more challenging to distinguish. The Italian sparrow measures approximately 14–16 centimeters in length, with a tail length of 5.3–6 centimeters.

Habitat

This species thrives in human-altered landscapes, including towns, cities, and agricultural areas. It often coexists with the Eurasian tree sparrow in urban environments.

Distribution

The Italian sparrow is predominantly found in northern and central Italy, Corsica, and parts of France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. Its range extends to Malta, Crete, and other Mediterranean locales, where it presents intermediate characteristics between the house and Spanish sparrows.

Behaviour

The Italian sparrow is a sociable bird, exhibiting sedentary behavior with some local wanderings outside the breeding season. It has been known to hybridize with the Eurasian tree sparrow, and its breeding habits are similar to those of the house sparrow.

Song & Calls

Vocalizations of the Italian sparrow carry well in natural settings and are akin to those of both the Spanish and house sparrows. The male's "chreep" call is used to assert nest ownership and during courtship displays.

Breeding

The Italian sparrow's eggs are indistinguishable from those of the house sparrow, with broods typically containing two to eight eggs. The species is mostly sedentary, but some local movements have been observed.

Similar Species

The Italian sparrow is intermediate in appearance between the house sparrow and the Spanish sparrow, with the latter being distinguishable by black streaks on the underparts.

Diet and Feeding

Its diet consists mainly of seeds and insects, similar to that of the house sparrow.

Conservation status

The Italian sparrow is currently classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN. Its population has experienced declines, particularly in urban areas, due to factors such as food shortages, agricultural intensification, and habitat loss.

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Italian Sparrow Fun Facts

Did you know?
The Italian Sparrow is the national bird of Italy

Italian Sparrows on Birda

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A photo of a Pale Rockfinch (Carpospiza brachydactyla)

Pale Rockfinch

Carpospiza brachydactyla
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