Speaking of the most familiar bird in Japan, many people may think of sparrows. Along with crows and pigeons, sparrows are a bird species that live in large numbers in Japan. Its petite body is very adorable, and some people may find it “cute”.
However, despite being such a familiar bird, there are many things that are not generally known.
This time, let’s take a look at the unknown ecology of a familiar bird, the sparrow.



~ Basic information. ~

Aves-Passeriformes-Passeridae-Sparrow genus.

Length:14-15cm weight:20-30g.

Sparrows have brownish heads and backs, and white bellies. A distinctive feature of their appearance is the black spots on their cheeks, which make them look like they are blushing and symbolize their cuteness.

The beaks of young sparrows are yellow, but they turn black when they become adults. Also, many small birds have thin beaks because they mainly eat insects, but sparrows have thick and short beaks because they eat rice seeds.


Sparrows in Japan mostly share the same living area with humans, but some prefer natural environments such as forests. This tendency is also seen worldwide, and there are various species that coexist with humans or live away from human settlements.

They inhabit Japan from Hokkaido to Okinawa, and can be seen everywhere. However, they do not live on some remote islands. They have a characteristic that they start to live where humans live, and they disappear when humans leave.

Sparrows are resident birds, and are thought to stay in the same place. However, it has been recently discovered that some individuals make large migrations in search of food to overwinter.

Furthermore, because they have been causing damage to rice cultivation since ancient times, some regions use them as food. This is mainly seen overseas, but in Japan they are also eaten as a specialty of Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine.

In addition, they are also used in fairy tales, entertainment, and family crests, so you can see that they are familiar birds for Japanese people since long ago.




Sparrow’s Q&A.

Where does the sparrow get its name?

In English, it is called “sparrow”, but in fact, in the Japanese name, it is named “suzume”. Why did it come to be called suzume by its Japanese name this time? We will introduce its origin.

Suzumes have existed for a long time, and appear in books from the Heian and Muromachi periods. At that time, suzumes were written as “susumi” or “susume”.

“Susu” is said to be a change in call or smallness, and “me” is a suffix for bird in Japanese.

Japan used to describe the call of a sparrow as “shiushiu”. There is a theory that the “shiushiu” of this call was changed to “susu”. It is also believed that the word “sasa,” which means “small” in Japanese, has changed.

And in the end, “susume” or “susu” changed for some reason and became “suzume”.


Why do sparrows live there?

Surprisingly, sparrows are almost inactive in natural areas, such as forests. As introduced in the basic information, sparrows live in the human sphere. The reason is that it is easier to get food when you are around humans.

It can be said that the rice growing in the rice fields and insects that occur in the vicinity are a treasure trove of food for sparrows. In addition, the environment is easy to get food, and the fact that there are few natural enemies is also an advantage of sparrows.

Cats and crows exist, but other birds of prey are few in the human sphere and are less likely to be attacked, so they are safe.

In addition, the relationship between humans and sparrows is so strong that it is said that in villages where there are no more people, sparrows will disappear.


What do sparrows eat?

Sparrows are omnivorous and eat seeds of grasses and insects. For sparrows that live in urban areas where there are few rice fields, bread crumbs and kitchen waste are also valuable food sources.

Therefore, as long as they live in human living areas, food is abundant for sparrows, and it is thought that they can breed everywhere.

Their staple food is seeds of grasses, and they are hated by farmers as injurious birds from summer to autumn. However, from spring to summer, they eat insects that infest rice, so they cannot be exterminated. It can be said that it is important to get along well with them in a balanced way.


Why do sparrows walk like they bounce?

Sparrows are characterized by jumping walks, and this gait is called “hopping”.

Pigeons, by the way, walk with alternating left and right legs. This way of walking called “walking” is the same as that of us humans.

Many of the birds that hopping are mainly tree-top birds or have small bodies.Tree-dwelling birds move from branch to branch, but it is not easy to move within stride. So they began to use both feet to jump, and they also walked on both feet on the ground.

Also, birds with large bodies do not do hopping. Hopping puts a strain on the legs because it puts weight on the landing. If a large bird just walks on the ground normally, walking is easier than hopping.

Therefore, hopping can be called a special form of gait, in which a small-bodied sparrow-like bird can do.


What are the natural enemies of sparrows?

Sparrows are small and rather weak, so they have many natural enemies. In urban areas where many humans live, they are cats, crows, and small birds of prey.

If you look a little further into the countryside, large birds of prey such as owls are also added to the above.

Globally, there are also races that eat sparrows, so there may not be many places that are absolutely safe for sparrows.

Can sparrows be bred as pets?

When breeding rare animals at home, it is necessary to follow the established laws in some countries. This time, I will introduce whether it is possible to keep sparrows at home in Japan.

In conclusion, sparrows cannot be kept as pets in principle.

ome people may wonder why there are no sparrows in pet shops, even though there are birds such as parakeets and java sparrows.

This is because there are legal restrictions on various factors, such as hunting methods and periods. Therefore, you can keep them if you hunt legally and obtain official permission.

However, obtaining permission is very difficult, so sparrows do not become common pets.

By the way, it is also basically illegal to protect individuals who are clearly weak. If you find one, it is better to contact the local government as it is.


Is it true that the number of sparrows is decreasing?

It is said that the number of sparrows is decreasing every year. According to researchers, it was estimated that it is about one-tenth of what it was 50 years ago. The cause of the decrease in the number is not clear, but may be due to the decrease in food and nesting places? It is considered to be.

Specifically, it is said that it is related to the decrease in insects that feed sparrows due to the decrease in fields and nature.

In addition, sparrows nest in tree hollows and crevices of buildings, but due to the decline of nature and the development of airtight houses, it seems that there are fewer places where they can nest. The coexistence of humans and creatures living in nature is likely to be a major issue in the future.


Is it true that sparrows live in groups?

Sparrows are said to be tens to hundreds of people gathering to form flocks. However, it is said that there are basically many young birds that form a flock, and with some exceptions, adult birds leave the flock.

Reasons for forming a herd include maintaining body temperature, making it easy to find food, and sleeping safety.

In addition, adult birds departing from the herd seem to settle in their preferred place. However, it is unclear why they behave this way.


What is the lifespan of a sparrow?

The lifespan of sparrows has not been investigated, and the exact lifespan is unknown.

However, it is said that the mortality rate of sparrows is very high. It is thought that the cause is the overlap of the existence of natural enemies and other multiple reasons. By the way, the longest lifespan of sparrows confirmed in Japan is about 6 years, so this is a valuable example considering the high mortality rate.


Why are sparrows rubbing their bodies in the sandbox?

Not only sparrows, but some birds move as if rubbing their bodies in a sandbox. This behavior is called “sand bathing” and has the same meaning as taking a bath for humans.

They do this in the sandbox to get rid of parasites and dirt on their feathers and bodies. Also, some birds wash their bodies by bathing in water instead of sand.

Usually they do either sand bathing or water bathing, but sparrows are a rare type that do both. You can say they are clean birds that wash their bodies once a day.


Is it true that there are sparrows with plump bodies?

Ordinary sparrows are smart, have a slender figure. However, in winter, do you ever see sparrows that are plump and adorable?

Sparrows in this state are called “Fukura Suzume” in Japanese. By taking air into the feathers and swelling them, they protect themselves from the cold.

By the way, in kanji, it is written as 福良雀(Fukura Suzume).

It has been said to be auspicious since ancient times, and it has a particularly high relationship with kimono, and not only is it a pattern, but the name remains on the obi knot. It is often used for events such as celebrations in the hope of happiness.

If you have never seen a Fukura Suzume closely, be sure to pay attention to it in winter.


Are all types of sparrows living in Japan the same living area as humans?

In general, sparrows live in the same living area as humans, but there are also species that live in forests.

The name of the species is “russet sparrow”, and while sparrows are resident birds, russet sparrows are traveling birds that spend summer in the north Japan and move south when it gets cold.

The difference in appearance from sparrows is that there are no black spots on the cheeks. By the way, black spots on the cheeks are called “nifu” in Japanese.

Sometimes it seems to be mixed in sparrows, so you may be able to tell by looking at the cheeks.




Type of sparrow.

  • Saxaul Sparrow
  • Somali Sparrow
  • Kordofan Sparrow
  • Southern Grey‐headed Sparrow
  • House Sparrow
  • Chestnut Sparrow
  • Arabian Golden Sparrow
  • Plain‐backed Sparrow
  • Parrot‐billed Sparrow
  • Grey‐headed Sparrow
  • Spanish Sparrow
  • Iago Sparrow
  • Socotra Sparrow
  • Sudan Golden‐Sparrow
  • Cape Sparrow
  • Dead Sea Sparrow
  • Sparrow
  • Rufous Sparrow
  • Sind Sparrow
  • Kenya Rufous Sparrow
  • Russet Sparrow
  • Shelley’s Sparrow
  • Desert Sparrow
  • Swahili Sparrow
  • Swainson’s Sparrow