Passer hispaniolensis (*)
Passer hispaniolensis (Temminck, 1820)
* Manuel d'ornithologie ed.2 1 p.353
The Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis, also known as the Willow Sparrow, is a species of sparrow in the family Passeridae. It is found in the Mediterranean region and southwest and central Asia. It is very similar to the closely related House Sparrow, and the two species show their close relation in a "biological mix-up" of hybridisation in the Mediterranean region, which complicates the taxonomy of this species.
The Spanish Sparrow is a rather large sparrow. at 15 to 16 centimetres (5.9–6.3 in) in length, and a weight of 22 to 36 grams (0.78–1.3 oz). It is slightly larger and heavier than House Sparrows, and also has a slightly longer and stouter bill. The male is similar to the House Sparrow in plumage, but differs in its underparts heavily streaked with black, a red-brown rather than grey crown, and white rather than grey cheeks. The female is effectively inseparable from House Sparrow on plumage, only distinguishable by its slightly heavier build and faint streaking on the sides.
The taxonomy of the Spanish Sparrow is greatly complicated by the "biological mix-up" it forms with the House Sparrow. In most of the Mediterranean, either the House or the Spanish sparrow occurs, or both, with only a limited degree of hybridisation. In Italy and Corsica where the two species are replaced by the Italian Sparrow, a puzzling type of sparrow apparently intermediate between the Spanish Sparrow and the House Sparrow. The Italian Sparrow may be the same species as the Spanish Sparrow or it may be a hybrid with the House Sparrow. The Spanish Sparrow also hybridises freely with House Sparrow in parts of northern Africa (northeastern Algeria, Tunisia, and northwestern Libya), forming highly variable mixed populations with a full range of characters from pure House Sparrows to pure Spanish Sparrows and everything between. On the Mediterranean islands of Malta, Gozo, Crete, Rhodes, and Karpathos, there are more apparently intermediate birds of unknown status.
The Spanish Sparrow was first described by the Dutch zoologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck as Fringilla hispaniolensis. Its usual English common name is derived from its scientific name. The name Willow Sparrow is sometimes used for this species, especially when it is considered the same species as the Italian Sparrow.
The Spanish Sparrow has two subspecies if the Italian Sparrow is not counted as one, hispaniolensis, found in the Mediterranean; and transcaspicus, found in Asia.
The Spanish Sparrow has a highly complex distribution in the Mediterranean region, all of Macaronesia, and across southwest and central Asia from Turkey east to westernmost China. It breeds mostly in a band of latitude about fifteen degrees wide. It is usually nomadic or migratory, and its colonisation of Macaronesia can probably be attributed to migratory birds flying off course. Its range has expanded greatly by natural colonisation over the last two centuries, in the Balkans, where it reached Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Moldova from 1950 onwards; and in Macaronesia, where its range expansion is usually attributed to introductions and travel by ship, but is more likely attributable to natural colonisation.
In the Mediterranean, it is found in parts of Iberia and North Africa, some islands, and the Balkans. In Iberia it is uncommon in the valley of the Tagus, and less common still on the eastern coast and the valleys of the Guadalquivir and Guadiana. While the House Sparrow and the Spanish Sparrow form a "hybrid swarm" in the eastern half of the Maghreb, they coexist with little hybridisation in the western half. In northern Italy and Corsica it is replaced by the Italian Sparrow, in southern Italy it integrades with the Italian Sparrow. On Malta, Crete, and islands near these, there are birds intermediate between the Spanish Sparrow and the House Sparrow, which are similar to the Italian Sparrow. In Sardinia, the Spanish Sparrow occurs, though the Eurasian Tree Sparrow is most common in the towns and the Italian Sparrow has been recorded breeding once. It is not known to breed in the Balearic Islands, the Aegean Islands, Corfu, or the Peloponnese, but it occurs on Pantelleria. In the Balkans, it occurs patchily from Montenegro across into the Danube valley of Romania and northern Vojvodina. It is found in mainland Greece and Bulgaria, where it is also uncommon. Vagrants from the Mediterranean have reached as far north as Scotland and Norway.
The Spanish Sparrow is likely to have been established on the western Canary Islands for some time, as it was found on Lanzarote when an naturalist first visited the island in 1828. In the 1830s, it was recorded on Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, and Tenerife; since the 1940s it has reached all the other Canary islands. In the Canaries, it is found in cultivation, in settlements, and in arid areas, where it has ousted the Rock Sparrow from all but the driest localities. It reached Madeira in May 1935, when numbers of sparrows were found across the island after nine days of strong, continuous easterly winds. In Madeira it is common in cultivated areas, but it has not fully adapted to nesting in buildings or breeding in the drier north of the island. It seems to have reached the Cape Verde islands around the same time it reached the Canaries, and it was first recorded there on Santiago by Charles Darwin in 1832. From then onwards it spread to all the other larger islands, this spread being poorly recorded. It is not common on most islands, due to the presence of the endemic Iago Sparrow, and the House Sparrow an one island. On the island of Fogo, where it is the sole species of sparrow, it is common in all habitats, breeding both in the houses of São Filipe and in the cliff walls of the volcano Mount Fogo.
The eastern subspecies transcaspicus of the Spanish Sparrow breeds from Anatolia and Cyprus through the northern Levant, Kurdistan, Iran, parts of the eastern Caucasus, Iran, and Turkestan to the furthest west of China. Here it has also expanded its range, in the area around Lake Alakol in Kazakhstan, where agriculture not developed until the 1950s.
The Spanish Sparrow is an urban bird in some areas, notably where House Sparrows are absent such as the Canary Islands, Madeira, and some Mediterranean islands, but more often breeds in trees near rivers or other wet areas in farmland well away from buildings. Like other sparrows, it feeds principally on seeds. It is strongly gregarious, often building closely spaced or even multiple shared nests, though each pair having an individual nest cavity and entrance; some colonies breed in the base of large nests of birds like White Storks. Colonies may hold anything from a few pairs up to over a thousand pairs. Each pair lays 3–8 eggs, which hatch in 12 days, with the chicks fledging when about 14 days old.
1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2009). "Passer hispaniolensis." 2009.2 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2009.2.
* Clement, Peter; Harris, Alan; Davis, John (1993). Finches and Sparrows: an Identification Guide. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-03424-9.
Source: Wikispecies, Wikipedia: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License