Rock Sparrow

Rock Sparrow
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia, Dashui Reservoir (36.716292, 99.471655), Qinghai, China, elev. 3400 m (11,170 ft.), June. (Craig Brelsford)

Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia ranges northwest Africa to China, with intermedia in western Xinjiang and brevirostris Inner Mongolia to Gansu, Qinghai, and Sichuan. Reported Tibet. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Dry, sparsely vegetated, treeless steppe and mountains, to 4800 m (15,750 ft.). Often on ground, where runs like a pipit. Usually in flocks, especially outside breeding season. ID & COMPARISON May recall a female Passer but has longer wings, white-tipped tail, and yellow throat patch. Striking head pattern punctuates generally variegated, streaky appearance. Broad buff supercilium bordered above by dark-brown lateral crown stripe and below by dark-brown eyeline. Coronal stripe creamy-white. Upperparts and wings greyish-brown with heavy blackish streaking. Whitish patch at base of primaries. White tips to tail feathers particularly noticeable in flight. Underparts buffish-white with diffuse brownish-grey streaking on breast and flanks. Brown undertail coverts scalloped white. Whitish throat accentuated by dark lateral throat stripe and pale submoustachial stripe (may be inconspicuous). Yellow spot on lower throat can be inconspicuous, especially when bird is crouching. Race brevirostris has less distinct head pattern. Juvenile lacks throat spot and has distinct white tips to wing coverts and tertials. BARE PARTS Large bill brown above, yellow below, with dark tip. Feet brownish-yellow. VOICE Song a loose repetition of call notes. Noisy, nasal cheep: pey-ee. Alarm call a trilling tii-yrrr. — Craig Brelsford

THE OLD WORLD SPARROWS OF CHINA has research on most of the 13 species in the family Passeridae in China. Click any link:

Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii
Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla henrici
White-winged Snowfinch M. nivalis
Black-winged Snowfinch M. adamsi
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis
Pere David’s Snowfinch P. davidiana
Blanford’s Snowfinch P. blanfordi
Russet Sparrow Passer cinnamomeus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow P. montanus
Saxaul Sparrow P. ammodendri
Spanish Sparrow P. hispaniolensis
House Sparrow P. domesticus


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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