Sind sparrow

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Sind Sparrow
Sind Sparrow (Passer pyrrhonotus)- Male at Sultanpur I Picture 178.jpg
Male at Sultanpur National Park, in India
Conservation status
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Passeridae
Genus: Passer
Species: P. pyrrhonotus
Binomial name
Passer pyrrhonotus
Blyth, 1845
Approximate limits of the Sind Sparrow's breeding (green) and winter dispersal (sky blue) range, within which it is very local

The Sind Sparrow (Passer pyrrhonotus) is a passerine bird of the sparrow family Passeridae. It is also known as the Sind Jungle Sparrow, Jungle Sparrow, or Rufous-backed Sparrow. Males have brighter plumage than females, including black spots and a grey crown, very similarly to the House Sparrow, from which it is distinguished by smaller size and minor differences in plumage. It is patchily distributed in its breeding range around the Indus valley region of Pakistan and adjoining parts of India, where its habitat is usually tall grass and thorn scrub near water. During the non-breeding season, some birds disperse over short distances or migrate into western Pakistan and the extreme east of Iran.


Illustration of a pair by John Gerrard Keulemans

Both sexes of the Sind Sparrow are very similar to the House Sparrow, but slightly smaller, with a number of distinguishing features. While the common South Asian subspecies of the House Sparrow, Passer domesticus indicus, has a body about 15 centimetres (5.9 in) long, the Sind Sparrow is 13 centimetres (5.1 in) long.[2]

The breeding male has a short and narrow black bib and a broad chestnut eye stripe that does not meet the mantle.[3][4] The male has the crown and nape grey and the lower back and rump rufous. The female has a darker and greyer crown and cheek than the female House Sparrow and the shoulder is darker chestnut.[3] The female Dead Sea Sparrow of the subspecies Passer moabiticus yattii is also similar to the female Sind Jungle Sparrow, but has yellow tinges on the underparts and sometimes on parts of the head.[5][6] The bill is black and the breeding male and pale brown on the non-breeding male and female. With a culmen length of 1.1–1.25 centimetres (0.43–0.49 in), the Sind Sparrow is slightly smaller-billed than the House Sparrow.[2][3]

The Sind Sparrow's chirping chup call is softer, less strident, and higher pitched than that of the House Sparrow, and is easily distinguished.[7][8] The song includes chirrups interspersed with grating t-r-r-rt notes and short warbles or whistles.[7][8][9]


The Sind Sparrow was first described by Edward Blyth from a specimen collected by Alexander Burnes at Bahawalpur around 1840.[10][11] The species was described in an issue of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal which, although dated as 1844, was published only in 1845.[12] It was not recorded for 36 years after it was described, despite the efforts of noted ornithologists Allan Octavian Hume in Sindh and William Thomas Blanford in eastern Iran.[2][13] This was probably because of its general similarity with the House Sparrow,[2] though additionally, Blyth's description of the species incorrectly described its rump feathers as maroon, and a description by Thomas C. Jerdon contained similar errors.[14] Commenting on his unsuccessful search, Hume wrote that the hundreds of House Sparrows he killed in pursuit of the Sind Sparrow "ought to form a heavy load" on Blyth's conscience, and that if the Sind Sparrow existed "it would be only decent for it…to put on an appearance with as little delay as possible".[15] Hume doubted its distinction, as did other ornithologists.[14] The Sind Sparrow was rediscovered by Scrope Berdmore Doig in 1880, in Eastern Nara district.[16][17][18] Ernst Hartert considered it as a subspecies of the House Sparrow in his Die Vögel der paläarktishen Fauna,[19] but Doig and Claud Ticehurst both found the two species breeding side-by-side.[2][20]

E. C. Stuart Baker suggested the English name Rufous-backed Sparrow, but as this name might cause confusion with other species, Ticehurst suggested the name Sind Jungle-Sparrow, which became the accepted name for the species.[2][20] This name is shortened to Jungle Sparrow or Sind Sparrow, of which the first was used in the IOC World Bird List, until Sind Sparrow was adopted in 2009.[21]

The Sind Sparrow is a member of the genus Passer, which contains the House Sparrow and around twenty other species.[22] In a 1936 review of the House Sparrow's relatives, German ornithologist Wilhelm Meise suggested that the Sind Sparrow evolved from an isolated population of House Sparrows, noting that the Indus valley is a center of small bird types.[23] British ornithologist J. Denis Summers-Smith considered the Sind Sparrow to be part of the "Palaearctic black-bibbed sparrow" group including the House Sparrow, though not one with a particularly close relationship with the House Sparrow. Summer-Smith considered that these species probably separated 25,000 to 15,000 years ago, during the last glacial period, when sparrows would have been isolated in ice-free refugia, such as the Indus River Delta, where he thought the Sind Sparrow evolved.[24][25] However, studies of mitochondrial DNA indicate an earlier origin of sparrow species, with speciation occurring as early as the Miocene and Pliocene.[26] Hume and Ticehurst noted a resemblance and possible relation with the Dead Sea Sparrow of the Middle East and Balochistan,[17][20] and William Robert Ogilvie-Grant and Henry Ogg Forbes noted a resemblance to the island endemic Abd al-Kuri Sparrow in their 1899 description of that species,[27] also remarked upon by Guy M. Kirwan in a 2008 study.[28]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Nest at Sultanpur National Park in India

This species has a restricted distribution, primarily occurring within the Indus valley of Pakistan, and the lower parts of the tributaries of the Indus in the Punjab region. Its distribution extends from the Indus Delta near Thatta north to the Kabul River near Nowshera, extending east into India as far as the Delhi area.[29][30] It also breeds locally in parts of Balochistan province, and has been recorded several times in southeastern Iran.[29][31][32][33]

It breeds in acacia and tamarisk scrub and tall grass, invariably near rivers and other wetlands.[34] The construction and expansion of irrigation canals has increased its habitat in Sindh, and helped it extend its range into the Yamuna floodplain and parts of Rajasthan.[30][33][35] During winter, it often makes short distance movements, and has some birds move into parts of Balochistan (western Pakistan and an adjoining corner of Iran), and less commonly northwestern Gujarat, India.[3][33][36] Longer movements may occur, as suggested by a possible sighting in the United Arab Emirates in November 2000.[25]

The Sind Sparrow is somewhat common in its restricted range,[33][34] and no serious threats are known to its survival, so it as assessed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.[37]


The Sind Sparrow is gregarious, generally forming small groups of four to six birds while feeding and at breeding colonies.[33][38] During winter, the non-breeding season, it forms larger flocks of as many as 30 birds,[38] and joins flocks with other seed-eating birds.[3][39] The Sind Sparrow feeds mainly on the seeds of grasses and other plants such as Polygonum plebeium. Flocks forage on flats alongside rivers, flying into nearby bushes and continuing to forage when disturbed.[8] The nesting season is April to September and it builds its nests in the upper branches of thorny trees or the ends of thin branches hanging over water.[3][40] The nest is an untidy dome of grass and it may sometimes build below the nests of egrets or extend the nest of a Baya Weaver or Pied Myna.[30][41] Both the male and female take part in nest building and incubation.[8]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Passer pyrrhonotus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 5 July 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Summers-Smith 1988, pp. 194–195
  3. ^ a b c d e f Rasmussen & Anderton 2005, p. 575
  4. ^ Currie, A. J. (1916). "The Birds of Lahore and the Vicinity". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 24 (3): 561–577. 
  5. ^ Porter, Christensen & Schiermacker-Hansen 1996, p. 410
  6. ^ Oates 1890, pp. 238–239
  7. ^ a b Summers-Smith 1988, p. 198
  8. ^ a b c d Ali & Ripley 1999, pp. 76–77
  9. ^ Currie, A. J. (1909). "The Rufous-backed Sparrow (Passer pyrrhonotus) nesting in the Punjab". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 19 (1): 259–260. 
  10. ^ Blyth, E. (1845). "Synopsis of Indian Fringillidae". Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal XIII (156): 944–963. 
  11. ^ Whistler, H. (1925). "A note on the weavers and finches of the Punjab. Part 2". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 30 (2): 406–417. 
  12. ^ Dickinson, E. C.; Pittie, A. (21 December 2006). "Systematic notes on Asian birds. 51. Dates of avian names introduced in early volumes of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal". Zoologische Mededelingen (Leiden) 80–5 (3): 113–124. 
  13. ^ Blanford 1876, p. 255
  14. ^ a b Hume, A. O. (1880). "Notes". Stray Feathers 9 (3). 
  15. ^ Hume 1873, p. 209
  16. ^ Doig, S. B. (1880). "Birds Nesting on the Eastern Narra. Additions and Alterations.". Stray Feathers 9 (4): 277–282. 
  17. ^ a b Hume, A. O. (1881). "Passer pyrrhonotus, Blyth". Stray Feathers 9 (5&6): 442–445. 
  18. ^ James, H. E. M. (1893). "Sind as a Field for the Naturalist". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 8: 322–325. 
  19. ^ Hartert 1903, p. 151
  20. ^ a b c Ticehurst 1922, pp. 651–653
  21. ^ Gill, F.; Donsker, D., eds. (2011). "English Name Updates". IOC World Bird Names (version 2.10). Archived from the original on 7 November 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  22. ^ Summers-Smith 1992, pp. 3, 6
  23. ^ Meise, Wilhelm (1936). "Zur Systematik und Verbreitungsgeschichte der Haus- und Weidensperlinge, Passer domesticus (L.) und hispaniolensis (T.)". Journal für Ornithologie (in German) 84 (4): 631–672. doi:10.1007/BF01951015. 
  24. ^ Summers-Smith 1988, pp. 279–280, 288–289, 304–305
  25. ^ a b Summers-Smith 2009, p. 795
  26. ^ Allende, Luis M.; Rubio, Isabel; Ruíz-del-Valle, Valentin; Guillén, Jesus; Martínez-Laso, Jorge; Lowy, Ernesto; Varela, Pilar; Zamora, Jorge; Arnaiz-Villena, Antonio (2001). "The Old World sparrows (genus Passer) phylogeography and their relative abundance of nuclear mtDNA pseudogenes" (PDF). Journal of Molecular Evolution 53 (2): 144–154. doi:10.1007/s002390010202. PMID 11479685. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. 
  27. ^ Ogilvie-Grant, W. R.; Forbes, Henry O. (May 1899). "The Expedition to Socotra I. Descriptions of the New Species of Birds". Bulletin of the Liverpool Museums Under the City Council II (I). 
  28. ^ Kirwan, Guy M. (2008). "Studies of Socotran Birds III. Morphological and mensural evidence for a 'new' species in the Rufous Sparrow Passer motitensis complex endemic to the island of Abd 'Al Kuri, with the validation of Passer insularis Sclater & Hartlaub, 1881". Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 128 (2): 83–93. 
  29. ^ a b Summers-Smith 1988, pp. 195–196
  30. ^ a b c Harvey, B; Sharma, S. C. (2002). "The initial colonisation of the Yamuna flood plain by the Sind Sparrow Passer pyrrhonotus". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 99 (1): 35–43. 
  31. ^ Scott, Derek A. (2008). "Rare Birds in Iran in the Late 1960s and 1970s". Podoces 3 (1/2): 1–30. Archived from the original on 21 August 2010. 
  32. ^ Roselaar, Cees S.; Aliabadiani, Mansour (2009). "Review of Rare Birds in Iran, 1860s–1960s". Podoces 4 (1): 1–27. 
  33. ^ a b c d e Roberts 1992, pp. 478–480
  34. ^ a b Clement, Harris & Davis 1993, p. 448
  35. ^ Sangha, Harkirat Singh; Kulshreshtha, Manoj (2008). "Locations of Sind Sparrow sightings along the Rajasthan Canal and the River Sutlej". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 105 (1): 91–92. 
  36. ^ Bapat, N. N. (1992). "Sind Jungle Sparrow Passer pyrrhonotus Blyth in North-West Gujarat". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 89 (3): 378. 
  37. ^ BirdLife International (2009). "Passer pyrrhonotus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 
  38. ^ a b Summers-Smith 1988, p. 196
  39. ^ Whistler, H. (1922). "The Birds of Jhang District, S. W. Punjab. Part I. Passerine Birds". The Ibis. 11 4: 259–309. 
  40. ^ Baker 1926, p. 174
  41. ^ Jones, A. E. (1912). "Notes on Birds from Lahore". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 21 (3): 1073–1074. 
Works cited
Further reading

External links[edit]