How much do we know about our Eurasian Tree-sparrow?

posted in: Species | 2

On the occasion of the 2014 World Sparrow Day organised by the Nature Forever Society LINK, we take the opportunity to once again review our knowledge of the behaviour of the Eurasian Tree-sparrow (Passer montanus).

This species, a common resident seen throughout Singapore (Wang & Hails, 2007), has always been considered not worthy of study by local birdwatchers LINK. They prefer to direct their attention on the rare species – see HERE.

The most significant work can be found in Spittle (1949), where details of the nests are given. This was undertaken when he was a prisoner-of-war in Japanese-occupied Singapore. Most other information on this sparrow came from outside Singapore (Edgar, 1947 and McClure, 1961, cited in Wells, 2007) and Summers-Smith (2009).

The publication of The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. II, Passerines (Wells, 2007), showed up the general lack of interest among birdwatchers from the Nature Society on this sparrow. The book depended heavily on contributions from our local citizen scientists LINK, but there was only a single citation, on seasonality, noted in the 1987 issue of Singapore Avifauna. It is possible that there are more records but then Wells’ attempts to subscribe to post-1990 issues of this in-house newsletter when he was drafting his manuscript in the UK was totally ignored (Wee & Subaraj, 2009).

Things improved somewhat in 2005 when the Bird Ecology Study Group was formed to encourage birdwatchers to document bird behaviour LINK. A small group of birdwatchers answered our call and contributed the following information on the Eurasian Tree-sparrow:


Food: Fruits of Celosia argentea LINK, Acalypha siamensis LINK, Clidemia hirta (YC pers comm.), Salvia splendens LINK, alate termites LINK.

Feeding:LINK 1, LINK 2, LINK 3.

Interspecific interaction:LINK 1, LINK 2, LINK 3, LINK 4.

Feather maintenance:LINK 1, LINK 2.


Partially blind sparrow: LINK.

Altitudinal migration:LINK.

With this post it is hoped that more birdwatchers would come forth and make further observations on the Eurasian Tree-sparrow in the future.

YC Wee
March 2014

Spittle, R.J. (1949). Nesting habits of some Singapore birds. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum 21:184-204.
2. Summers-Smith, J. D., 2009. Family Passeridae (Old World Sparrows). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & D. A. Christie (eds.). Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 14. Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 760-813.
3. Wang, L.K. & C. J. Hails, 2007. An annotated checklist of birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 15: 1-179.
4. Wee, Y. C. & R. Subaraj, 2009. Citizen science and the gathering of ornithological data in Singapore. Nature in Singapore 2: 27-30.
5. Wells, D.R., 2007. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. II, Passerines. Christopher Helm, London. 800 pp.

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