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English House Sparrow I.D.

English House Sparrows and Native Look-Alikes

Correct identification of HOSP

Is it an English House Sparrow otherwise known as HOSP? If you are pulling nests or trapping, it is important that you are sure. It is amazing how many times even the most common of birds is misidentified.  

It’s important to note, that there are other birds that look VERY similar to HOSPs.  Remember, Non-native HOSP will enter a cavity and destroy eggs, young and adult native birds. The only other similar sized bird that will destroy eggs is a native House Wren. House WrenHouse Wrens are smaller, have a long pointy beak(NOT a fat conical beak), tail often held upright(Not held down). They Have NO BLACK bib. They have a drab grayish- brown, belly. House Wrens are native and are protected.

English House Sparrow (HOSP)


male HOSP head shotMale HOSP head shot

(NOTE: Males have a black, v-shaped bib on the breast under their beak and GRAY cap on the top of their head with chestnut below.) 

Female HOSPFemale HOSP

Female HOSP head shotFemale HOSP head shot

(NOTE: Females DO NOT have the black bib or the chestnut (reddish/brown) color on the sides of their heads. They do have a pale streak running back from their eye. They have a dull NON-streaked breast.)

 Some birds that Look like hosp

Chipping SparrowChipping Sparrow: Cap is chestnut (reddish-brown) NOT gray. NO BIB. Smaller in size than hosp. Will not harm birds or eggs. Does NOT nest in a cavity.

House FinchHouse Finch: Both male and female have a streaked breast. Notice reddish cast to head and chest of male. NO bib, no grey cap, no chestnut head.(Photo courtesy Terry Sohl of

Black-Capped ChickadeeBlack Capped Chickadee: These birds DO nest in a nest box but DO NOT harm any eggs or birds. They are smaller than a HOSP. No chestnut (reddish-brown) markings. (Photo Courtesy Terry Sohl of

Many thanks to Bet Zimmerman from for HOSP and Chipping Sparrow photos. And thanks to Terry Sohl of for photos of the chickadee and house finch.

Wood Ducks, Buffleheads, Northern Flickers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Gila Woodpeckers, Acorn Woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatchers, Tree Swallows,  Eastern Bluebird and Purple Martins  can all be killed due to a HOSP attack. By their sheer numbers and prolific nature they have single-handedly caused significant declines to many of these birds. If you really want to see what a HOSP can do, I STRONGLY suggest going to this link to view what happens to our beloved Martins and other native birds, when such a ubiquitous bird attacks. I will warn you that the images ARE GRAPHIC. >link to HOSP attack: < 

The worse thing that can be done is to allow a HOSP to nest in one of your nest boxes. It may seem like a beautiful experience but with the hatching of the sparrows eggs and their subsequent fledging and flying out into the world, you have sealed the fate of some other cavity nesting bird somewhere. Through one act of inaction, it is possible to be responsible for over 2,000 birds in a few years.  Though the Purple Martin will only lay 1 clutch of eggs in a year, a HOSP will raise 2-5  clutches every year. Whereas the Purple Martin takes about 26 days to fledge(fly), a HOSP will fledge in about 14-16 days. A person may allow a HOSP to successfully nest because they have no native birds nesting, so why not…”What harm will it do? They’re so cute.” The fact that those 2,000 birds will disburse and spread and wreak havoc somewhere else is a heartbreak to Purple Martin Landlords, Bluebirders and TreeSwallow ‘Keepers’ everywhere.

Many Thanks to for info and link.


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