Tree Sparrow

Passer montanus

The Tree Sparrow is the rarer and arguably better-looking relative of the familiar House Sparrow. Although widespread in the Old World, these social birds have become increasingly scarce in the United Kingdom.

Tree Sparrow

Tree Sparrow

Close up of a Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Close up of a Eurasian Tree Sparrow

A pair of Tree Sparrows

A pair of Tree Sparrows

Juvenile Tree Sparrow

Juvenile Tree Sparrow

Appearance & Identification

The Eurasian Tree Sparrow is a stout and richly marked species, similar in appearance to the House Sparrow.

What do Tree Sparrows look like?

The Tree Sparrow’s most distinctive features are a chestnut brown cap, a black spot on each cheek, and a broad black streak on the throat. The rest of the face is white, and they have a distinct white collar. Their underparts are pale grey, and their wings and backs are richly marked in warm caramel shades with darker streaking.

Male and female Tree Sparrows look alike, and juveniles can be identified by duller plumage and a less defined cheek patch.

These birds are most easily confused with the House Sparrow, although male House Sparrows have grey (not chestnut) crowns and plain white/grey cheeks. Female House Sparrows are easily distinguished by their relatively plain light brown plumage and pale eyebrow stripe.

Close up of a perched Tree Sparrow

Close up of a perched Tree Sparrow

How big are Tree Sparrows?

Tree Sparrows are small birds, slightly smaller and slimmer than the House Sparrow.


Eurasian Tree Sparrows measure approximately 14 centimetres (5.5 inches) from bill to tail tip.


They weigh 18 to 28 grams (⅔ - 1 ounce).


Their wingspan is 20 to 22 centimetres (8 inches).

Back detail of a perched Tree Sparrow

Back detail of a perched Tree Sparrow

Calls & Sounds

The Tree Sparrow’s call is similar but higher pitched than the House Sparrow’s. Continue reading to learn more about Tree Sparrow vocalisations.

What sound does a Tree Sparrow make?

Tree Sparrows produce relatively simple songs. Their vocal range is limited to various chirps used to communicate in different situations. Their song consists of longer, more complex strings of chirps to attract a mate, advertise their territory or nest site, and maintain their pair bond.

Other calls include churring, shrieking, and cheeping notes that are used to maintain contact with members of their flock, express alarm or distress, or beg for food.


What do Tree Sparrows eat?

Tree Sparrows feed primarily on seeds and grains. Cereal crops like wheat, barley, maize, and rye are favoured, although they will feed on various weeds and wild plants. They also eat insects and other invertebrates in the warmer months.

What do baby Tree Sparrows eat?

Tree Sparrow chicks eat a variety of small insects like caterpillars, beetles, aphids, and grasshoppers. They also eat a smaller amount of berries and other plant material.

The baby sparrows fledge the nest after about two weeks and may be fed for another two weeks until moving off to join a flock.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow foraging in a corn field

Eurasian Tree Sparrow foraging in a corn field

Habitat & Distribution

What is the habitat of a Tree Sparrow?

Tree Sparrows are less at home in urban and suburban areas than the House Sparrow, preferring farmland, hedgerows, and open woodland habitats.

What is the range of a Tree Sparrow?

The Eurasian Tree Sparrow has an extensive native range in Europe and Asia. They occur from Portugal and the United Kingdom in the west to Japan and the Kamchatka Peninsula in the East. They are absent from most of India but occur throughout Southeast Asia.

Eurasian Tree Sparrows were introduced to parts of Australia and Missouri in the United States. They have not spread widely but persist in breeding populations today.

Where do Tree Sparrows live?

Tree Sparrows live in rural areas in the United Kingdom and the United States, but they are ubiquitous in urban environments in the east of their range. These birds spend most of their time in trees, hedgerows, and shrubs, although they regularly descend to feed on the ground.

Tree Sparrow in flight

Tree Sparrow in flight

How rare are Tree Sparrows?

Tree Sparrows have recovered slightly in the United Kingdom, despite their population being just a fraction of its mid-20th century number. They are generally scarce, although they can be common in parts of northeastern England in the spring and summer months. In the United States, the species is locally common but localised in the Lower Midwest.

Where can you see Tree Sparrows in the UK?

Tree Sparrows have a patchy distribution in the United Kingdom. They are absent from most of the southwest, Wales and upland areas of northern England and Scotland. Look for these birds in farmland with hedgerows or along woodland edges in rural areas of central, northeastern, and southeastern England.

Where can you see Tree Sparrows in the US?

The Eurasian Tree Sparrow population in the United States is mainly confined to the area around St. Louis, Missouri, and adjacent Illinois and Iowa.

Close up portrait of a Tree Sparrow

Close up portrait of a Tree Sparrow

Lifespan & Predation

How long do Tree Sparrows live?

Tree Sparrows can live for over twelve years, although their average life expectancy is just two years.

What are the predators of Tree Sparrows?

Adult Tree Sparrows in the UK are most vulnerable to birds of prey like the Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, while Coopers and Sharp-shinned Hawks are likely predators in the United States.

Mammalian predators like domestic cats, weasels, rats, and raccoons are also threats. Their eggs and chicks are vulnerable to additional nest predators like Jays and Common Grackles.

Are Tree Sparrows protected?

Tree Sparrows are protected in the United Kingdom by the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. They are not federally protected in the United States, although they enjoy local protection in the state of Illinois.

Are Tree Sparrows endangered?

Eurasian Tree Sparrows are not endangered. They are classed as a ‘Least Concern’ species on the IUCN red list, although they have declined notably in the west of their range. Tree Sparrows are still on the red list of conservation concern in the United Kingdom after massive declines between the 1970s and 1990s.

Tree Sparrow perched on a blossom covered branch

Tree Sparrow perched on a blossom covered branch

Nesting & Breeding

Tree Sparrows nest colonially in the spring, producing two or three clutches per season. Continue reading to learn more about Tree Sparrow nesting behaviour.

Where do Tree Sparrows nest?

Tree Sparrows generally nest in natural cavities like tree holes, holes in earth banks and artificial structures like roof eaves and nest boxes. Males select the nest site and display nearby to attract a partner. Pairs then work together to construct a nest over about five days.

What do Tree Sparrow eggs look like?

Tree Sparrows usually lay four to six eggs, although clutches of one to ten are possible. Each egg has a whitish ground colour and is marked heavily with dark spots and blotches. Their eggs measure approximately 19 millimetres long and 14 millimetres wide.

Do Tree Sparrows mate for life?

Tree Sparrows form strong pair bonds and generally mate for life. However, they will accept a new mate if a partner is lost.

<p><strong>The nest of a Tree Sparrow with five eggs inside</strong></p>

The nest of a Tree Sparrow with five eggs inside

<p><strong>Tree Sparrow feeding its young chick in the nest</strong></p>

Tree Sparrow feeding its young chick in the nest


Are Tree Sparrows aggressive?

Tree Sparrows may act aggressively if other birds approach their nesting territory. They begin with visual displays like rocking, bobbing and gestures with their wings and tails, but will fight with their bills and claws if necessary. They also act aggressively if other Tree Sparrows or birds forage too close to them.

Where do Tree Sparrows sleep at night?

Tree Sparrows roost among the branches of trees and other vegetation in warmer seasons but will use the shelter of buildings or nest cavities in cold weather. They may roost communally in large flocks, sometimes mixed with House Sparrows.

Tree Sparrow in winter, on a snow covered branch

Tree Sparrow in winter, on a snow covered branch


Do Tree Sparrows migrate?

Tree Sparrows occur throughout the year in all but the coldest parts of their range. They are generally sedentary but may undertake local movements outside of the breeding season. Some North Asian breeders move south for the winter.

Are Tree Sparrows native to the UK?

Tree Sparrows are native to the United Kingdom. Their native range includes most of Europe and Asia.

Are Tree Sparrows native to the US?

Tree Sparrows are not native to the United States. About two-dozen individuals from Germany were introduced to St.Louis, Missouri on the 24th of April, 1870, and they have persisted in the region ever since.

Three Tree Sparrows perched on a branch

Three Tree Sparrows perched on a branch


How to attract Tree Sparrows?

Tree Sparrows rarely visit gardens and are difficult to attract in suburban areas. Farmers and landowners with large properties can attract these birds by setting out nest boxes to encourage a breeding colony and placing bird feeders in hedgerows.

Tree Sparrows show a preference for red millet, and their ideal nest box has an entrance hole with a 28-millimetre diameter and a total depth of about 20 centimetres.

Are Tree Sparrows bad?

Tree Sparrows can damage food crops in some parts of the world and were even the subject of an intensive eradication program in China in the mid-20th century. However, they are not considered destructive in the United Kingdom and have not spread to become invasive and destructive in the USA like their relative, the House Sparrow.

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Quick Facts


Scientific name:

Passer montanus

Other names:

Eurasian Tree Sparrow


Old World sparrows

Conservation status:




14cm to 20cm


18cm to 28cm


18g to 28g

Learn more about the Tree Sparrow

Similar birds to a Tree Sparrow

Other birds in the Old World sparrows family

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