My New Book


Melanistic House Sparrow?

Nobody seems to care about house sparrows in North America.  I posted the following photo to the American Birding Association Facebook page and no one really seemed interested in discussing it (granted, it’s not as glamorous as discussing one’s indignation at adding Hawaii to the official ABA area of countable birds list).

melanistic house sparrow

But still, it’s a dark house sparrow and I wasn’t sure if this bird was melanistic or just dirty. I tried googling “melanistic house sparrow” and found someone in Europe who had a very dark house sparrow, kind of a cool looking bird.

dark house sparrow



Perhaps if it wasn’t non-native it would register more interest? Sometimes birds hatch out of the egg with aberrant plumage–sometimes albino (absence of any pigment) or luecistic (missing some pigment) or melanistic (too much pigment).



7 comments to Melanistic House Sparrow?

  • Jay

    “Perhaps if it wasn’t non-native it would register more interest?”

    You point out in this post something that has bothered me for a while. Why, in a nation of immigrants, do we get as bothered as we do about non-native species. Yes, there can be detrimental effects when non-native species are introduced. Look at the zebra mussel in the Great Lakes, or the Burmese python in the Everglades. However, doesn’t there come a point when some of these non-native species are “naturalized.” House sparrows are here to stay. So too are mute swans and starlings. So, why should we discriminate?

  • Jay

    Oh, I wasn’t implying that you were discriminating against the “non-native” species. Obviously, by your question you had an interest.

  • Well both House Sparrows and European Starlings compete with native species for nesting sites. I know for a certainty they compete with the American Kestrel and the Eastern Bluebird. All are cavity dwellers. Starlings will even move in after a native bird has taken up residency and place their nest over top the eggs. (Not sure about the House Sparrow as they’re not as frequently guilty of this crime.) The Kestrel was just relisted as a threatened species in NJ due to declining numbers within the state.

    Regarding the melanistic bird – it probably would have thrown me for a bit as to who it was. I had a very tawny chested house sparrow this weekend that had me scratching my head. So much variation!

  • Jay you bring up an interesting point and Non Birding Bill has pointed out the same thing. But Kathleen is right, some species like house sparrows, starlings and mute swans can be deadly to native species. It’s to the point now that it’s difficult to have a successful bluebird houses without human intervention and removal of house sparrows. I’ve seen house sparrow nests that were built on top of dead bluebird nestling and the nestlings had holes in the back of their head from house sparrow beaks. I even saw a house sparrow do it to a white-breasted nuthatch.

    They are here to stay, but unfortunately, these birds can have a detrimental affect on species already challenged with habitat loss.

  • I saw a house sparrow last week when I went jogging at a track encircling a little league ball field. I don’t see that species very often. It wasn’t melanistic.

    This recreational park is a great place for bird-watching. The birds really like foraging the short lawn. That particular day I saw 13 species in less than an hour, including pine siskins which are rare migrants in Augusta, Georgia.

    Contrary to popular opinion, I think Burmese pythons are a beneficial introduction to south Florida. South Florida suffers from a dearth of mesopredators. Before the introduction of Burmese pythons, there was an overpopulation of raccoons, oppossums, and rabbits. The former 2 destroyed many box turtle eggs. Now, box turtle populations are bouncing back.

  • Tree

    I have this same bird the past two days at my feeder. We’re in Virginia beach. It’s a male house sparrow but black with the brown wings. Nver seen anything like it! It’s a little bit bigger and puffier but has the hint of male house sparrow marking. Did you have any progress on what it is?

  • Linda Ferring

    Birdchick, you and your followers really impress me. Occasionally I ask myself whether we are hypocritical relative to the house sparrow. If they are declining, we should find out why.
    I even tried calling them “housies” to make myself more positive. Every argument we use to boost the importance of birds is also true of the bird-that-shall-not-be-named. Except maybe one: housies are so darned adaptable they thrive on any degraded environment we can create. Still, whatever is threatening housies can also threaten the birds we love.
    Last week I read that March 20 is International Sparrow Day. That means house sparrow, not native NoAm sparrows. Now I can’t find the reference. Has anyone else seen it?