Family Old World Sparrows (Passeridae)

Least Concern

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow (Passer diffusus)


French: Moineau sud-africain German: Damarasperling Spanish: Gorrión sudafricano

Pyrgita diffusa

A. Smith

, 1836,

“North of the Orange river” = near Kuruman, Cape Province, South Africa


See remarks under P. griseus. Race mosambicus sometimes considered to belong with P. griseus, and stygiceps sometimes believed to represent darker end of cline in plumage coloration of nominate or possibly a hybrid between nominate race of present species and race ugandae of P. griseus; further study in area of overlap between the two species required in order to resolve extent to which these taxa are isolated or intergrade. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. d. diffusus (A. Smith, 1836) – W & S Angola E to SW & S Zambia, S to Namibia (except SW), Botswana, W Zimbabwe and W South Africa (except much of SW).
  • P. d. luangwae Benson, 1956 – upper Luangwa Valley, in E Zambia.
  • P. d. mosambicus van Someren, 1921 – SE Tanzania and N Mozambique.
  • P. d. stygiceps Clancey, 1954 – SE Zambia, S Malawi, N & E Zimbabwe, C & S Mozambique, NE & E South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho.
  • Descriptive notes

    15–16 cm; 20–29·6 g. Nominate race has head and nape pale ash-grey, often with brownish tinge, underparts pale grey, becoming whitish on belly and vent;... read more


    Call a repeated "chirp" or "chirrup", rather softer and more melodious than... read more


    Open acacia (Acacia) woodland, frequently near settlements, and penetrates into built-up... read more

    Food and feeding

    Weed seeds and insects, also buds, berries and nectar; also scraps discarded by humans. Young fed mainly with insects, such as termites (... read more


    Breeds in all months of year, coinciding with local rains; two broods. Mainly solitary, occasionally in loose colonies. Nest built by both... read more


    Mainly sedentary; reports of large concentrations suggest local movement. Recent expansion of range... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common and widespread over most of relatively large range. Density in Swaziland 51 birds/100 ha. Has expanded its range since 1950s; in South Africa... read more

    Recommended citation

    Summers-Smith, D. (2019). Southern Grey-headed Sparrow (Passer diffusus). 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).