Family Old World Sparrows (Passeridae)

Least Concern

Northern Grey-headed Sparrow (Passer griseus)


French: Moineau gris German: Graukopfsperling Spanish: Gorrión gris
Other common names: Common Grey-headed Sparrow

Fringilla grisea


, 1817,

United States; error = Senegal


Often treated as conspecific with P. swainsonii, P. gongonensis, P. suahelicus and P. diffusus, but they appear not to interbreed in at least parts of their ranges where geographical overlap occurs. Race mosambicus of P. diffusus considered by some to belong with present species. Three subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. g. griseus (Vieillot, 1817) – Senegal and S Mauritania E to Ivory Coast and to C & S Sudan, S to N Gabon and extreme N Central African Republic; also Bioko.
  • P. g. laeneni Niethammer, 1955 – E Mali and Burkina Faso E to W Sudan (Darfur), S to N Cameroon.
  • P. g. ugandae Reichenow, 1904 – N Eritrea, W Ethiopia and SE Sudan S to S Gabon, Angola, extreme N Namibia, Zambia, NW & N Zimbabwe, Malawi and C & NE Tanzania.
  • Descriptive notes

    14–15 cm; 18–43 g. Nominate race has head and neck ash-grey, mantle and upper back grey-brown, lower back and rump dull chestnut, shoulder cinnamon-red; upperwing... read more


    Call of male at nest a variety of harsh chirps, transcribed variously as "chip", "... read more


    Commonly associated with cultivation and human habitations, also in grassland savanna and light... read more

    Food and feeding

    Largely granivorous, taking seeds of grasses and cultivated cereals; also small fruits; in urban habitats takes household scraps. Nestlings... read more


    Breeds in all months of year, coinciding with local rains, but prolonged in areas with irrigated cultivation; normally three broods.... read more


    Nomadic outside breeding season.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common throughout range. Density in Nigeria (S Aïr) reported as 5 birds/ha. Species is currently spreading to E & SE.

    Recommended citation

    Summers-Smith, D. (2019). Northern Grey-headed Sparrow (Passer griseus). 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 7 December 2019).