Cape sparrow

Cape sparrow
Cape Sparrow, Passer melanurus at Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, Johannesburg, South Africa (14727921265).jpg
Male in Roodepoort, South Africa
Passer melanurus.jpg
Female in Sossusvlei, Namibia
Scientific classification edit
P. melanurus
Binomial name
Passer melanurus
Passer melanurus distribution.svg
  • Loxia melanura Statius Müller, 1776
  • Fringilla arctuata Gmelin, 1788

The Cape sparrow (Passer melanurus), or mossie, is a bird of the sparrow family Passeridae found in southern Africa. A medium-sized sparrow at 14–16 centimetres (5.5–6.3 in), it has distinctive plumage, including large pale head stripes in both sexes. Its plumage is mostly grey, brown, and chestnut, and the male has some bold black and white markings on its head and neck. The species inhabits semi-arid savannah, cultivated areas, and towns, and ranges from the central coast of Angola to eastern South Africa and Swaziland. Three subspecies are distinguished in different parts of its range.

Cape sparrows primarily eat seeds, and also eat soft plant parts and insects. They typically breed in colonies, and when not breeding they gather in large nomadic flocks to move around in search of food. The nest can be constructed in a tree, a bush, a cavity, or a disused nest of another species. A typical clutch contains three or four eggs, and both parents are involved in breeding, from nest building to feeding young. The Cape sparrow is common in most of its range and coexists successfully in urban habitats with two of its relatives, the native southern grey-headed sparrow and the house sparrow, an introduced species. The Cape sparrow's population has not been recorded decreasing significantly, and it is not seriously threatened by human activities, so it is assessed as a species of least concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


A male in Western Cape, seen from the front

For a sparrow, the Cape sparrow is strikingly coloured and distinctive, and is medium-sized at 14–16 cm (5.5–6.3 in) long.[3] Adults range in weight from 17 to 38 grams (0.60–1.34 oz).[4] The breeding male has a mostly black head, but with a broad white mark on each side, curling from behind the eye to the throat. On the throat a narrow black band connects the black bib of the breast to black of the head.[5] The underparts are greyish, darker on the flanks. The back of the male's neck is dark grey, and its back and shoulders are bright chestnut. The male has a white and a black wing bar below its shoulders, and flight feathers and tail streaked grey and black.[3]

The female is plumaged like the male, but is duller and has a grey head with a different pattern from the male, though it bears a hint of the pale head markings of the male. The juvenile is like the female, but young males have black markings on the head from an early age.[3][6]

The Cape sparrow's calls are chirps similar to those of the house sparrow, but much more musical and mellow.[3][7] The basic call is used in flight and while perching socially and transcribed as chissip, chirrup, chreep, or chirrichup.[7] A loud, distinctive call used by the male to advertise nest ownership can be written as tweeng or twileeng; this call can be extended into a jerky and repetitive song, chip cheerup, chip cheerup.[4][7]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Gewone mossie
asturianu: Passer melanurus
Bân-lâm-gú: Passer melanurus
български: Passer melanurus
Deutsch: Kapsperling
Esperanto: Nigrakapa pasero
Nederlands: Kaapse mus
پنجابی: کیپ چڑی
svenska: Boersparv
Tiếng Việt: Passer melanurus