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Spanish Sparrow – Passer hispaniolensis – l-Għammiel tal-bejt

Spanish Sparrow – Passer hispaniolensis – l-Għammiel tal-bejt

The Spanish Sparrow is the commonest resident bird in the Maltese Islands. Strongly gregarious, it can be found both in rural and urban environment, and can be seen in flocks especially after the breeding season is over. The recorded maximum age of a Spanish Sparrow is 11 years.

The Spanish Sparrow is 15 – 16 cm in length, with a wing span of 23 to 26 cm, weighing from 26 – 36 g.

The male’s head has a distinctive dark chestnut crown, the colour extending on the back and side of its neck, with pure white cheeks and a thick dark bluish-black beak. A black bib runs from under its beak spreading to its chest, resembling a black beard. A series of black marks are spread on its breast and sides, contrasting with its almost white belly. Black and reddish-brown streaks cover its back. Its short legs are bright brown.

The female has lighter colours, speckled brown from above and light grey from below. Its beak is of a yellowish colour. The female is lighter than the male weighing approximately 20 to 30 g.

The untidy nest starts being built around February, and is used for a second and a third brood. The nest is built in ventilators, in rubble walls and other holes in walls, in cliffs and also in trees.

The female lays from 4 to 6 eggs, which hatch after 12 days. The chicks leave the nest about 14 days later. Nestlings are fed almost exclusively on insects and soft food for the first few days, though the adults feed mainly on seeds, leaves, fruit and other material from plants.

Females resemble the first-year young, though the latter are lighter and less contrasting in colour.

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