House Sparrows are one of the most widespread species in the world. They occur naturally right across Eurasia from the Atlantic coast to the Sea of Okhotsk and south to northern Africa, Arabia and the Indian subcontinent. There are introduced populations in parts of North and South America, sub-Saharan Africa, Australia and New Zealand and on many oceanic islands.

In Great Britain the 1988-91 Breeding Atlas showed them to be widespread except in parts of mainland Scotland, though total numbers had fallen by 15% since the 1968-72 Breeding Atlas. Bird Atlas 2007-2011 recorded a slight increase in distribution but also reported that regular monitoring showed there to have been a 69% decrease in the UK breeding population between 1977 and 2010. The decline has been particularly severe in some urban areas where the species has become virtually extinct. Various theories have been put forward to explain this decline but none have yet proved conclusive.

In Wiltshire House Sparrows increased in numbers throughout the 19th century despite being persecuted as pests. “Sparrow Clubs” were set up with the sole purpose of eliminating the species, but despite the huge numbers that were killed there was no apparent decrease in abundance in the first two-thirds of the 20th century. Birds of Wiltshire recorded them present in 740 tetrads, with breeding in 644. WTA2 recorded them in 712 tetrads, with breeding in 454.


The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:

“1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976: The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser

“1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986: The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser

1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser

Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.

“Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland

WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.

"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.