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How Long Do Sparrows Live: Lifespans in Captivity & The Wild

Sparrow

Last Updated: May 17, 2022

The life span of a sparrow depends on whether it's a wild bird or one in captivity. So many challenges shorten the lifespan of wild sparrows, including predators, human activity, and disease.

Due to these factors, a wild bird lives fewer years than one in captivity.

So, how long do sparrows live?

We'll look at different species and explain the oldest recorded bird for popular sparrow species.

Why Sparrows Die Young

Before we look at the life expectancy of different sparrow species, let us analyze factors that cause premature deaths:

Predators

Even though sparrows prey on other garden birds like eastern bluebirds, they also have predators preying on them such as hawks, squirrels, cats, and grackles. These predatory animals eat everything from sparrow eggs to nestlings and adult sparrows.

Window Collisions

Window crashes occur as the avian exits a bird feeder that's located too close to a window. The bird darts off at tremendous speed and abruptly collides rather violently on the window surface and dies. That's the case with conventional window feeders!

However, there is an available improved window sill bird feeder to prevent sparrows from crashing or even killing themselves upon flying away. It's on the market at an affordable price. Let's show our sparrow friends some avian L-O-V-E!

Disease

A bird disease can spread in the wild, at a backyard feeder, or birdbath. One disease responsible for reducing the sparrow population is coccidiosis.

Sparrow Nest Removal & Pesticides

People use some controversial ways of getting rid of house sparrows. Whether there's a baby bird or an unhatched egg in a nest, human disturbance can make the breeding pair abandon the nest. Let us now look at the life expectancy of sparrows amidst all of these challenges.


What Is The Lifespan Of A Sparrow? A Look At Different Species

Did you know? The Bird Banding Laboratory, under the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, recorded 13 years as the maximum age of a house sparrow and a white-crowned sparrow.

Here's more information:

1. House Sparrow

House Sparrow
House Sparrow

This bird species is one of the most common birds across North America and one of the 43 Old World sparrows.

So, how long do house sparrows live? 

This species lives between three and five years though its lifespan may be shorter because predators like Cooper's hawks and various owls eat adult birds, baby birds, and eggs.

However, its love for backyards and human habitats is one of the reasons this sparrow faces fewer predators, as most of them aren't backyard visitors.

The oldest English sparrow was a female bird almost 16 years old, banded in Texas, and later found in the same state in 2004.

A house sparrow, also called Passer domesticus or the English sparrow, has a diverse diet, from crops to birdseed and wild foods. Consequently, it survives different habitats it explores all over North and South America.

Nonetheless, this non-native species has to deal with traps and repellents because not everyone loves its destructive habit of using a hole in a building as a nest site. It may also build a nest in a vine on a building or compete with other species for a nest box.

It's so aggressive that even the male house sparrow with darker plumage dominates other males when choosing a breeding partner.

Have you seen a house sparrow? It measures between 5.9 and 6.7 inches long, so it's slightly larger than a house finch.

Fun Fact: If you want to discourage a house sparrow from building a nest inside your roof gutter or under your roofing, then it is best to build a superior quality bird house to stop it from "squatting" on your house!

2. Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow

It loves open areas, shrublands, and wetlands, but backyards also make a comfortable habitat when there are offers of water and seed. This one has the same lifespan as the sparrow above, as it can live up to five years. But the oldest song sparrow in the world was 11 years and four months.

Some causes of death for a song sparrow are predators, window collisions, and insecticides.

Fun Fact: A Song Sparrow is one of the many birds in New Hampshire that avian watchers like to invite to their backyards!

3. Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow

You'll see this sparrow on the border of Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri only. How did it get there? 

The Eurasian tree sparrow was among European species shipped to the United States in 1870 so that immigrants from Europe could see familiar birds in their neighborhoods. You may want to visit farms or wooded areas because this species rarely inhabits cities.

It's a rare species even on other continents. For example, you'll only see it in Victoria and New South Wales in Australia.

Its average lifespan is three years, and the oldest, banded Eurasian tree sparrow was about four years old. Some of the issues that may kill this bird before its three-year lifespan are cats, disease, and contamination.

A Eurasian tree sparrow uses different nesting grounds, from cavities to fence posts and nest boxes. The male chooses a nesting site from 3 to 30 feet off the ground.

4. White-crowned Sparrow

White-Crowned Sparrow
White-Crowned Sparrow

Though it nests on the ground, it may also prefer to build a nest about 15 feet from the ground. However, it opts to go higher when a predator attacks its ground nest.

The breeding birds in the northeast region migrate, leaving their habitats to birds that spend the winter north.

This native species has a longer lifespan than others on this list, as it can live for nine years. On that note, the oldest was one month shy of its fifteenth year. 

A female white crowned sparrow collects nest material like moss and twigs for the exterior. On top of that, it lines the interior with fine grass and animal hair. Since this avian doesn't reuse nests, a female builds one every breeding season.

5. Black-throated Sparrow

Black-Throated Sparrow
Black-Throated Sparrow

The ones living in the northern states migrate a short distance to winter in the southern states. However, there's a resident population in North America.

Unlike the Eurasian tree sparrow, where the breeding pair collects nesting material together, a female black-throated sparrow does all the work from collecting grass and stems to nest building. It builds a cup-shaped nest lined with fine grass or animal hair.

The oldest bird was a six-year-old female black-throated sparrow. This sparrow is almost the size of a tree swallow as it grows between 4.7 and 5.5 inches long.

6. Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow

It's a resident bird in the southern states like Florida, and the ones in the northern states migrate south. Like other species on this list, it lays under ten sparrow eggs. A young bird enjoys its 12 days of nestling in a home with animal hair and plant fiber, between three and ten feet from the ground.  

A wild sparrow lives for about nine years unless it faces challenges like insecticides, cats, or habitat loss.

Fun Fact: There are other birds in Florida whose lifespan is more or less similar to that of our sparrow buddies. In fact, Florida backyard birds rank one among the many varieties of avian species to watch out for during the spring and summer seasons!


Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a sparrow live in captivity?

The life span of a sparrow in captivity can extend beyond the 3 to 5 years we talked about above. For instance, one house sparrow lived for 23 years.

It's safer than in the wild, where native sparrows experience habitat loss, predator attacks, and bird disease. But, keeping sparrows in captivity takes them out of the ecosystem and causes an imbalance.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act doesn't protect the house sparrow because it only considers the native birds. Therefore, you can keep it as a pet sparrow.

How long does an average bird live?

Larger birds live longer, though it's not across all species. The inability to follow individual birds from when they hatch makes it hard to know the average life expectancy. 

But, there are recordings of the oldest birds across species. For instance, a Laysan albatross lived for 37 years and five months, while a blackpoll warbler lived for three years. Such data can show the average age of avians.

Birds in captivity live longer than their counterparts in the wild. For example, there's a sulfur-crested cockatoo that turned 80+ years old in a zoo. But, some species also live longer than captives, such as a European starling that turned 20 in the wild, three years longer than in captivity.


Conclusion

So, how long does a sparrow live?

Many challenges affect the sparrow population, whether North American or British birds. For that reason, the lifespan of these avians varies. Most live between three and nine years, but some wild birds have survived up to two decades.

The ones in captivity live longer as there's less to worry about in a home setting.

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