In plumage it may seem rather sparrow-like but its old name of Hedge Sparrow was misleading. Its slim build and especially its fine pointed bill prove that this isn't a sparrow at all. Key identification features include rich brown upperparts, neatly streaked with black, bright orange or pinkish legs and, above all, the lead grey colouring of the head and breast.
Breeds and winters in gardens, parks, woodland, waste ground and hedges.
Has a remarkably varied and flexible mating system. Sometimes a territory supports just two birds, male and female which co-operate in rearing the young. However, a male with a good quality territory will sometimes attract and mate with two or even three females. More typically though, it is the female who tries to mate with more than one male since any male she has mated with then helps in the feeding of the young. If two males have mated with the same female they may merge their territories and co-operate in defending a 'super-territory'. If lots of 'extra-marital' copulations take place you can have territories in which each female has more than one male but the males have mated with more than one female and are therefore attending two broods simultaneously. In a system with so much 'infidelity' the males have to be careful that they don't end up feeding a brood which is entirely someone else's offspring. This explains why, before mating, the male will peck at the cloaca of the female stimulating a pumping action. If the female has recently mated with another male this pumping will push out the bag of sperms which have just been deposited.
Mostly resident in Western Europe but populations further north and east are migratory moving as far as the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
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