Family Old World Sparrows (Passeridae)


Italian Sparrow (Passer italiae)


French: Moineau cisalpin German: Italiensperling Spanish: Gorrión italiano

Fringilla Italiœ

[sic] Vieillot

, 1817,



Interbreeds with P. domesticus in N of range (along the line of the Alps) and with P. hispaniolensis in S (rather broader zone S of Naples, extending S possibly as far as Malta and even Pantelleria). Has been treated variously as a race of one or other of those, as a stabilized hybrid between them, and as an independent species of N African origin that subsequently spread to Italy (and became extinct in N Africa). Molecular analyses#R#R found that italiae possesses DNA from both of aforementioned species, indicating a hybrid origin; nevertheless, it is morphologically distinct from both parent species, and has reached species level through the sorting of pre-existing parental incompatibilities#R, notwithstanding the fact that a high percentage of female hybrids exhibit ovarian hypofunction#R. Has generally been treated as a separate species on grounds that population is stable and has resulted from events long past. Populations in Corsica, Sicily and Crete phenotypically similar to present species and included within it. Species name originally spelt “italioe”, but internal information (“d’Italie”) requires the correction#R. Monotypic.


Italy and adjacent France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia; also Corsica, Sicily, Malta and Crete.

Descriptive notes

c. 16 cm; 23–30 g. Male is intermediate in plumage between P. domes­ticus and P. hispaniolensis: has chestnut crown, nape and hindneck, black... read more


Disyllabic "chirreep" call used by male to proclaim nest-site ownership and in speeded-up... read more


Urban areas, farms and villages, including surrounding land, with preference for rocky habitats.... read more

Food and feeding

Principally seeds in agricultural areas, and domestic scraps near habitations; also some animal food, mainly insects, and small lizards... read more


Not well recorded. Mar–Aug, mainly May–Jun; one or two broods, rarely up to four; appears to have shorter breeding season than... read more


Largely sedentary; recovery in Italy of individuals ringed in S France (Camargue) and recovery on... read more

Status and conservation

VULNERABLE. Abundant. The most numerous bird species in Italy, with an estimated 10,000,000–20,000,000 individuals in the country in 2011. Shortly afterwards the entire... read more

Recommended citation

Summers-Smith, D. & Sharpe, C.J. (2019). Italian Sparrow (Passer italiae). 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 13 December 2019).