Large flock of House Sparrows

To: 'John Layton' <>, 'Canberra birds' <>
Subject: Large flock of House Sparrows
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2018 00:54:02 +0000

As most of you may know, as not the first time I have mentioned it, I did my honours thesis (long ago) on a comparative study of the social behaviour of House Sparrows and Tree Sparrows. At La Trobe University where both were then common, and in general the Tree Sparrow is a more sociable species (much more cohesive). Whilst this is the time of year for post-breeding gatherings, I reckon that is an exceptional gathering by number, also outside my experience, especially in any kind of cohesive group. Given the time, I suggest it could have been travelling to a particularly good night roost but for that you would expect to see converging flocks. Maybe due to post-breeding movement but they aren’t migrants, also more likely a particularly restricted or good food source.


A little tease about: some of the females were probably immature. No doubt some of the males were also immature. About equal actually. Just because juveniles look similar to adult females doesn’t make them female.




From: John Layton [
Sent: Wednesday, 21 February, 2018 10:59 AM
To: Canberra birds
Subject: [canberrabirds] Large flock of House Sparrows


At 19:00 Hours yesterday I noticed several groups of small birds flying past the window. Went outside and saw the outer foliage of a spreading apricot tree was crowded with House Sparrows, both males and females, although some of the latter were probably immatures. Arrestingly, the warm reddish rays of the westering sun imparted a ruddy patina to their dowdy plumage.


Groups of between 8 to twelve birds kept arriving from the south, most landed on the apricot while some continued north. After a few minutes, groups began leaving the apricot and flying back in the direction they had come. Then, just thirty metres away, they paused for a few seconds in a bushy birch before flying on out of sight. This movement continued for maybe 5 minutes until no sparrows remained in the area.


After a good objective think I believe the total number I witnessed easily exceeded 100 perhaps 150. I suppose all this was some kind of post-breeding movement? Regardless, it’s the largest flock of House Sparrows I’ve seen in Australia.


John Layton



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