Rock Sparrow (Petronia petronia)

Rock Sparrow

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Passeridae | [latin] Petronia petronia | [UK] Rock Sparrow | [FR] Moineau-soulcie commun | [DE] Steinsperling | [ES] Gorrion chillon | [NL] Rotsmus


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Gymnoris petronia
Petronia petronia EU sw, sc, also nw Africa
Petronia petronia barbara
Petronia petronia brevirostris
Petronia petronia exigua
Petronia petronia intermedia
Petronia petronia kirhizica
Petronia petronia petronia
Petronia petronia puteicola

Physical charateristics

Bulky, long-winged, square-tailed sparrow, with heavy bill on rather large head (apparent size of head due partly to its linear patterning). Differs from other west Palearctic Petronia in larger size and strongly striped, streaked, and spotted greyish-brown plumage; combination of dark lateral crown stripes and white spots on tail-tip diagnostic.

Listen to the sound of Rock Sparrow

[audio: Sparrow.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 16 cm wingspan max.: 17 cm
size min.: 14 cm size max.: 15 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 0  
      eggs max.: 0  


Eurasia : Southwest, Southcentral, also Northwest Africa


Generally frequents rather bare treeless terrain with scanty herbaceous vegetation, ranging from flat desert steppe to rocky slopes or outcrops, screes, stony patches, ravines, cliffs, crags, and clay or earth precipices. In some regions favours less severe environments, such as alpine meadows, grassy or shrubby riversides, vineyards, olive groves, stone walls, ruined castles and other structures on hilltops, and even human settlements, where it may come into competition with House Sparrow or Spanish Sparrow.


In France egg laying from end of April to August, peak June-July when second clutches are generally laid. In Spain, the eggs are laid late April to early June. Canary Islands, the eggs laid mostly in May, but eggs recorded late March and nestlings early August. The nest is a hole or cavity in rocks, earth bank, tree, building or other structure, commonly in old, or sometimes usurped hole of other species, particularly bee-eaters but also nuthatches, swallows and martins. Also in old rodent burrow. Nest is largish untidy structure, very like that of House Sparrow; sometimes domed. Foundation principally of grass or straw, occasionally reduced to small pad, lined with feathers, hair, wool, string, cloth, paper, stalks of herbs or rootlets. Clutch varies from 4-7(-8) and are incubated for 11-14 days, young fledge after 16-21 days.

Feeding habits

Mostly seeds throughout year, with berries in autumn, and in spring invertebrates, on which young almost exclusively fed, especially caterpillars and grasshoppers. Forages mainly on ground, running around like pipit, in low herbs and grass, among rocks, in fields of cereal or stubble, etc.; commonly in large flocks, particularly in winter, often with other species, especially finches.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Petronia petronia is a widespread resident across much of southern Europe, which
accounts for less than a quarter of its global range. Its European breeding population
is very large (>1,700,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although there
were declines in a few countries during 1990-2000, the key population in Turkey was
stable (the trend of the other sizeable population, in Spain, was unknown), and the
species probably remained stable overall.
Rock Sparrow status Least Concern


Resident and to some extent dispersive; also altitudinal migrant. Resident in western Europe and northern Africa, with limited dispersal to cultivated areas in winter. Resident on Atlantic Islands, though on Madeira makes local visits to outlying islands in winter. In Turkey, distribution extends to lower altitudes in winter, birds occurring more widely in west, with fewer records from eastern breeding areas. In Israel, some populations wholly resident, others are altitudinal migrants.

Distribution map

Rock Sparrow distribution range map

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