Family Old World Sparrows (Passeridae)

Least Concern

Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia)


French: Moineau soulcie German: Steinsperling Spanish: Gorrión chillón
Other common names: Common Rock-sparrow, Eurasian Rock-sparrow, Rock Petronia

Fringilla Petronia


, 1766,

northern Italy


Somewhat smaller birds from Caspian region E to Kyrgyzstan sometimes treated as additional race kirhizica, but differences from intermedia appear insufficient to justify separation. Birds from Atlantic islands (Madeira, W Canary Is) proposed as race madeirensis, but inseparable from nominate. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. p. petronia (Linnaeus, 1766) – Madeira, Canary Is, and S Europe (including Mediterranean islands) E to Bulgaria and W Asia Minor.
  • P. p. barbara Erlanger, 1899 – Morocco E to NW Libya (S to 21° N).
  • P. p. exigua (Hellmayr, 1902) – C Turkey E to Caucasus, N Iraq and N Iran (E to Gorgan).
  • P. p. puteicola Festa, 1894 – S Turkey S to C Israel, Syria and W Jordan.
  • P. p. intermedia E. J. O. Hartert, 1901 – lower Volga Valley E to Aral Sea and E Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, S to SW, S & NE Iran, N Afghanistan and extreme NW China (W Xinjiang); in winter also N & W Pakistan.
  • P. p. brevirostris Taczanowski, 1874 – S foothills of Altai, N & E Mongolia and SE Transbaikalia S to N & C China (Inner Mongolia S to N Sichuan).
  • Descriptive notes

    14–15·5 cm; 26–39 g. Stout sparrow with short, square tail and robust bill; in flight, broad wings and short, white-tipped tail characteristic. Nominate... read more


    Noisy. Large variety of mainly disyllabic, rather nasal calls, e.g. "pee-yee" or "... read more


    Generally bare treeless country, ranging from flat desert steppe to rocky slopes and ravines at up... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly seeds of low herbs and grasses, also small berries; in breeding season also animal matter, e.g. termites (Isoptera) and beetles (... read more


    Season Mar–Aug; two broods. In loose colonies and isolated pairs. Nest an untidy structure, sometimes domed, made from grass, lined... read more


    Resident and partial migrant; some post-breeding dispersal and withdrawal to lower altitudes in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common. European population in 1980s estimated at c. 1,000,000 pairs, mostly in Spain, where breeding densities of 1·6 birds/10 ha in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Summers-Smith, D. (2020). Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia). 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 27 February 2020).