Family Old World Sparrows (Passeridae)

Least Concern

Desert Sparrow (Passer simplex)


French: Moineau blanc German: Wüstensperling Spanish: Gorrión sahariano

Fringilla simplex

M. H. C. Lichtenstein

, 1823,

Ambukol, Dongola, Sudan


Previously included Asian P. zarudnyi as a subspecies, but now recognized as distinct#R; see below. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. s. saharae Erlanger, 1899 – NW Sahara Desert E to C Libya, S at least to Mauritania and S Algeria (Ahaggar).
  • P. s. simplex (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) – S Sahara from C Mali E to Niger, N Chad, S Egypt and NW & C Sudan.
  • Descriptive notes

    13·5–15 cm; 18–21 g. Pale, long-legged sparrow with characteristic upright posture. Male nominate race is pale grey above, sometimes with faint sandy tinge... read more


    Call harsh ”tchip” or slightly rolled “chrip” or “drip”. Song a... read more


    Arid sandy areas with scattered trees and bushes, e.g. tamarisks (Tamarix articulate),... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly seeds of desert bushes and ground vegetMainly seeds of desert bushes and ground vegetation, grass seeds (e.g. Panicum turgidum... read more


    Season Feb–Aug, but mainly from mid or late Mar and in late Oct (S Morocco); possibly two broods. Breeds solitarily or in small... read more


    Erratic, at times common in some areas and rare or absent in others; probably at most only an... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Locally common; rare in E of range. Erratic use of different nesting areas makes it difficult to know if populations stable or... read more

    Recommended citation

    Summers-Smith, D. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Desert Sparrow (Passer simplex). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 9 April 2020).