Sparrow Nest

With its small size and flexible breeding habits, a sparrow is quite a successful creature that can adapt to all kinds of surroundings.

Consequently, it is found throughout the world, currently accounting for about 1.6 billion birds

But of all the places, sparrows tend to live near human settlements. 

And so, they bring a sense of familiarity to even the most alienating spaces. 

This is precisely why homesick European immigrants in America imported 6 pairs of House Sparrows from Germany in 1851.

However, those twelve birds procreated profusely, eventually colonizing the entire Americas.

But nesting sparrows are aggressive enough to discourage other birds, making them the prime suspect for declining numbers of bluebirds and purple martins.

Besides, the nest box initiatives to revive these native birds are also frequently taken over by sparrows.

Unfortunately, one cannot just say ‘Go Back to Your Country’ to immigrant sparrows.

Even so, the sparrow populations have been ‘mysteriously’ shrinking across the globe since 1977.

So, they may not even be behind the reduced numbers of native bluebirds.

Therefore, if we only learn more about ‘Sparrow Nesting Habits’, we may figure out why they are diminishing and how can we conserve them as well as other birds.

Though not sparrowhawks, cause they aren’t actually sparrows and not even hawks but ‘falcons’ that eat sparrows.

Or, ‘kestrels’ if you are from the UK.

But identifying birds of prey can be pretty confusing, so I was under the pretence that at least we knew our ‘sparrows’.

Only, someone pointed at a chickadee as an “exotic sparrow”

So, before I talk about sparrow nesting habits, it’s only appropriate that you know what is considered a ‘sparrow’ here.

Or say,

Which Birds Count As Sparrows?

Though members of the order Passeriformes are loosely called ‘sparrows’, ornithologists consider only two avian families i.e. Passeridae as ‘Old World Sparrows’ and Passerllidae as ‘New World Sparrows’.

(See figure 1). 

In this article, only families Passeridae and Passerllidae will be regarded as sparrows.

Still, only members of the genus Passer are ‘True Sparrows’, consisting of over 28 known species including Eurasian Tree Sparrows and House Sparrows.

Sparrow Nest

Figure 1: Representing sparrows families Passeridae and Passerllidae through Scientific Taxonomy

That said, sparrows are small compact birds, about 14-18cm in length and 24-40g in weight.

They are mostly brown with grey, black and white hues.

But females and chicks are far more buffish with striped wings while males have stark colors and blackish head markings.

Sounds too dull? Well, I cannot just say sparrows are ‘cute brown birdies’ and move on. 

Let’s come back to ‘sparrow nesting’.

So,

Where Do Sparrows Build Their Nests?

Typically, anywhere as long as there are humans nearby.

Ideally, a nesting area will have moderate temperatures with enough food and water as well as shelter from predators. 

So, if those conditions are met, sparrows can survive even in a desert.

That said,

Most sparrows prefer open and semi-open landscapes over dense woodlands. 

So, prospective nesting sites include pipes, chimneys, vents, awnings, street lights, signposts, ledges, climbing vines, agricultural lands, empty buildings, construction sites, warehouses, parking and gas station roofs as well as man-made nesting boxes.

But what makes any spot attractive for building a nest?

So, let’s ask again

Where Do Sparrows Nest?

While they prefer enclosed spaces, sparrows can build nests anew. 

You see, any cavity, vegetation, or place that is sturdy enough to support nesting materials, eggs and two adult sparrows, is good enough to build a home.

In fact, if there are several nesting spots in a single place, sparrows can build adjacent nests. 

But certain aspects make a nesting spot more desirable than others.

These include

Criteria Ideal Conditions
Location Open/Semi-open landscape with enough food, near human settlements.
Height Preferably 10-15 feet above the ground.
Size Spacious enough to hold eggs and parent birds without direct impact from winds.
Protection Preferably no predators in the vicinity, but enough cover in the surroundings to escape in emergencies.
Food Resources Abundant in insects as parents mostly feed bugs to their hatchlings. Seed feeders nearby as parents themselves eat seeds.

But these conditions are perfect, and life isn’t.

Therefore, sparrows grow only as picky as they can get.

So, a parent sparrow will choose the best ‘nesting spot’ it can find, even if that means evacuating some already nesting songbirds.

Anyways,

What Does a Sparrow Nest Look Like?

That kinda depends on the type of nest.

Now, all sparrow nests are made of coarse dried vegetation with a cup-like structure to support eggs.

Meanwhile, the cavity is lined with rather soft materials like fur, feathers, paper and hair to accommodate hatchlings.

But based on its location, a sparrow nest can be of two types:

a. Enclosed Nests

Nests built in cavities may be as simple as a hole in a wall or as luxurious as a man-made birdhouse.

In such a nest, sparrows just fill the cavity with enough nesting materials to make bedding for themselves as well as their eggs. And so,

Nests enclosed in cavities may not have a perfect circular shape from the outside.

That said, sparrows neither excavate to expand their nest cavity nor add extra nesting materials to fill an overly spacious hole.

b. Independent Nests

Such nests are built in open spaces like intertwined branches or construction beams.

These have an 8-12 inch wide dome-like cavity in the centre. 

They look exactly how you would imagine any nest.

However, sparrows don’t like being completely outside, so they add a leafy roof for cover.

Consequently, the entrance is through a side passage.

But,

How Do Sparrows Build Their Nests?

If the sparrows are mated already, then the couple builds the nest together.

That means the pair will reserve a nesting site with mutual agreement and settle in ASAP.

However, the female sparrow will dictate most of the nesting preparations. 

If sparrows are not mated by Spring, then a male sparrow finds a suitable spot and starts building a prototype nest made of twigs and dried grass all by himself.

The male sparrow then chirps a lot to exhibit dominance and attract prospective mates to inspect his prototype nest. 

If a hen sparrow likes it, she takes over the nest and all further proceedings. 

Now, the nest will be decorated with finer materials only of the female’s choosing.

So, if the hen says they need pigeon feathers on the right side of the nest and some human hair on the left side, the male sparrow will oblige without arguing. 

Even if that sometimes literally means pulling feathers off a live pigeon. (No kidding)

Ornithologists suggest that a male sparrow agrees to its partner’s dominance mainly because the hen instinctively knows what is best for its brood.

Now, I am not denying her motherly instinct but I think the male has his priorities sorted.

After all, finding that female was such a hassle, why would he risk his little mental peace for an argument over furniture? 

So, he might as well just get those damn pigeon feathers because they match the paper scrapes on the rooftop which will accentuate their nest walls and cushion the eggs. 

BTW, that also explains why sparrows mate for life because who would wanna go through the trouble of singing and building nests to impress new mates? 

But for the sake of not sounding bitter, let’s call that ‘pure love’ even though sparrows take only a week to find another partner once the previous one dies.

Anyways, 

Sparrows tend to reuse their nests with only minor adjustments for each brood.

It’s understandable why male sparrows would reuse a nest, but why would a hen agree?

Now, scientists will have you believe that: 

“Female sparrows are intelligent enough to not waste time, energy and resources. Therefore, they agree to reuse a nest with only minor changes.”

But odds are that all her passion for the ‘Perfect New Nest for my Perfect Little Chicks’, dies with those baby chirps.

Now, I am not saying that parents don’t love their kids and baby sparrows don’t sound melodious.

But even parent sparrows must be grateful when their kids finally stop talking and sleep.

So,

Why would the female sparrow decorate a new nest for the new brood when she can just sit in silence and reuse the same nest?

That said, the reused nest should still be sturdy and comfortable.

Somehow people imagine sparrow nests only on trees, so you may wonder:

Do Sparrows Nest In Hedges?

They do if the hedge is a reasonable one.

A good nesting hedge will have the following features:

Parameter Ideal Conditions
Dimensions Unpruned hedge of about 36’’ length x 22’’ breadth x 40’’ height
Accessibility Enough empty spaces for sparrows to enter easily.
Density Thick enough thickness to support the nest and hinder predators.
Vegetation Most observed in hedges made of Leylandii, Forsythia, Field Maple, Blackthorn, Beech, and Hawthorn.
Surroundings Plenty of food resources nearby.

Tall trees in the vicinity for sudden escape.

That said, there are birds called Hedge Sparrows.

What are Hedge Sparrows?

Dunnocks aka Hedge sparrows are native to the UK and mostly nest in hedges.

Their brown bodies and striped wings make them appear like sparrows.

But they aren’t technically sparrows because they belong to the family Prunellidae within the order Passeriformes. (Please see Figure 1)

But what makes ‘Hedge Sparrows’ not so ‘Sparrow-y’?

Well, it’s not just that dunnock males have blue heads instead of stark black beards.

Rather, Hedge Sparrows have completely different breeding styles from “True Sparrows”.

You see, the female hedge sparrow is polyandrous.

That means she takes as many mates as she can find.

Consequently, hatchlings from a single clutch are just half-siblings raised by a single mother.

There are other differences as well like dunnocks have extremely blue eggs etc.

But remember, true sparrows mate for life with their “one true love”.

So, this cheating female Hedge sparrow is not a ‘sparrow’ at all.

Having dealt with hedge sparrows, people often ask where white-crowned sparrows and chipping sparrows nest.

So, let’s ask:

Where Do White-Crowned Sparrows Nest?

Since White-crowned sparrows live in Tundra, there aren’t many options for nesting.

So,

  1. In Northern Tundra, White-crowned sparrows build their nests in shallow ground depressions, typically at the base of some grass clump
  2. Around West Coasts, White-crowned sparrows nest within shrubs. 

Female sparrows use twigs, bark strips, rootlets and weeds to build the open-nests containing a cup to hold eggs.

But its insides are lined with fine grass, animal hair and feathers.

Where Do Chipping Sparrows Nest?

Befitting their name, Chipping Sparrows build nests at the tip of a sturdy tree branch, some 3-10 feet above the ground but hidden beneath intertwining foliage.

However, such conditions are hardly met in open areas. 

So, Chipping Sparrows thrive in evergreen woodlands bordering human colonies

Their nests are most common among aspen, birch, oak, pecan and eucalyptus trees.

But, they have also been observed among crabapples, honeysuckles and ornamental shrubs.

Female chipping sparrows build extremely compact nests from grass, weeds and rootlets with a typical dome-like structure to support eggs. 

What Time Of Year Do Sparrows Nest?

Somewhere between early Spring and late Summer.

You see, the nesting instinct among sparrows kicks in early in the fall when the male birds experience a surge in estradiol (E2) levels.

This causes the grey on their head and chests to turn jet black.

And so, they start looking for prospective mates and nesting sites.

The instinct halts temporarily when winter sets in, only to ignite again as spring approaches and mated pairs start building nests.

Therefore, nesting usually begins in early spring.

But exactly what month of the year depends on a sparrow’s geographical location as summers in London aren’t aligned with those in Melbourne. 

Most sparrows around the globe nest somewhere between February to September. 

How Long Do Sparrows Nest For? 

Approximately 4-6 weeks per nesting cycle.

Now, a typical sparrow egg is 0.6 inches in diameter and weighs 2.8 g.

Meanwhile, an average clutch is about 4-5 eggs (sometimes 1-8 eggs) but a hen sparrow lays only one egg each day and doesn’t incubate them until the last egg is born.

Though eggs hatch after 11-14 days of incubation, hatchlings need at least 8 days of brooding before they can regulate their body temperature and 8 more days until they fledge.

And so, most sparrows take their first flight on the 18th day after hatching.

The mother sparrows then take 1-2 weeks to recover from the previous birth, only to enter into another nesting cycle.

In fact, parent sparrows can reproduce up to 3-4 times in a single breeding season. So,

Technically, sparrows nest for 4-5 months.

Now, you may have questions about when sparrows stop nesting and leave.

Say,

How Long Do Baby Sparrows Stay In The Nest?

A fortnight within the nest, but a month within the nest’s vicinity.

You see, hatchlings are featherless pink creatures that are entirely dependent on their parents for food and temperature.

But after 15 days of constant care, these birds fledge and take their first flight.

However, the fledglings don’t learn to fend for themselves for two more weeks.

That’s when the father sparrow helps his brood find feed sources and catch insects.

Meanwhile, the female sparrow feeds herself to recover her lost nutrients and makes minor adjustments to the nest for another nesting cycle.

Anyways,

Once a sparrow grows 4-5 weeks old, it flies to a different territory and never returns.

In contrast, adult sparrows are fairly sedentary birds.

So, if you are asking:

When Do Sparrows Leave The Nest?

If they can help it, never.

You see, sparrows are successful birds because they aren’t overly adventurous. They like it safe, and they love it familiar. So, 

Once a sparrow settles down, it only moves within 1¼ miles radius of its nest.  

In fact, the farthest an adult sparrow has been recorded to move is around 5 miles. 

That means, parent sparrows leave their nests only for seasonal changes and will eventually return to reuse their nest

Still reading? I suppose that makes you my digital Padawan and as your Bird-Yoda Bestow you with some clarity, I must.

So, it’s time you learn about the ultimate sparrow nesting biological term. 

Sparrow Nesting Habits

Now, nesting Instinct refers to a pregnant animal’s urge to build a new home which results in a series of nesting habits. In other words,

Sparrow Nesting habits are just a fancy way of saying the parent birds need to build an appropriate nest before they can even think of ‘cute little chicks’.

Since the entire article is based on sparrow nesting habits, here is a summary for you:

Nesting Habit Description Timeline
Finding a Partner Male sparrow hits maturity and starts looking for a mate. Either early fall typically September-October.

Or, late winter i.e. February.

Locating a Nesting Site Either sparrow couples build nests together, or solo male builds a basic nest to attract mates. Spring mostly Feburary-March.
Female Dominance Females decide on finer materials like paper, fur, hair, or feathers for lining the nest.
Mating and egg-laying Female lays one egg each day, about 1-8 eggs per clutch.
Incubation and Hatching Both parents take turns incubating eggs, with the hen tending to the eggs more than the male sparrow. Eggs hatch after 11-14 days of incubation.
Brooding Hatchlings grow the ability to regulate their own temperature. 8 days
Fledging Chicks grow flight wings. 15-18 days after hatching.
Post-fledge Care and Female Recovery Father sparrow helps his brood learn to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, the female sparrow eats a lot and mends the nest for the next nesting cycle. 2 weeks

If you have read this far, maybe there are actual sparrows nesting at your place.

So, you may be wondering:

Is It Good To Have a Sparrow Nest In The House?

Depends on how you see it.

For a birder, a sparrow nest may be a ray of ‘sunshine’ but for a follower of Vastu Shastra, that same nest will be an auspicious omen and something of a ‘Holy’ sight. 

But if you are neither, then that may just be a headache.

Or,

If a sparrow has built its nest in your heat vent, you may be seeking to get rid of it.

Now, sparrows aren’t native to America so they aren’t technically protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

But laws may vary across states as well as other countries. 

So, killing or hurting a sparrow is not a good idea.

If you must get rid of them, I advise you to call your local wildlife services.

However, if you are in a bind and must do something about the sparrow nest yourself, I want you to consider the following:

  1. If isn’t necessary, let that bird have a life.
  2. Let at least the current clutch of eggs become fledgelings, and then remove the nest before the female lays another clutch.
  3. If the nest is in danger from some unavoidable activity, then set up a birdhouse near the nesting spot and gently put the nest within that box. 

Most likely parent birds will return to their chicks.

In case they don’t return within half an hour, immediately call wildlife services.

I hope this article helped you find all the answers you were seeking.

We at birdcageshere.com write about bird health and diet however it should not be taken as medical advice. For advice on your bird you need to seek out an avian vet. The information you find on birdcageshere.com is for educational purposes only. At birdcageshere.com we are not liable for any information that you may find on here. Birdcageshere is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice about your bird.