How Long Do Sparrows Live? [A Look at the Life Expectancy of this Popular Bird]

how long do sparrows live

Sparrows are some of the most common backyard birds and with good reason. They’re cute, small, active, colorful and easy to pet. But have you ever wondered how long sparrows live?

Generally, sparrows live between one and three years, but many factors affect their lifespan, including their diet and environment.

In this article, we’ll look at the life expectancy of these popular birds. Read on to discover more!

The Average Lifespan of a Sparrow

Sparrows generally have an average lifespan of just one to three years. They often do not live longer than two and usually die during their first year. 

Most are killed by predators such as cats or owls, but they can also fall victim to disease or starvation.

The Oldest Recorded Sparrow

In 2017, bird researchers discovered a Rufous-crowned Sparrow in their nets, which they banded around June 2011 as a year-old bird. 

The Oldest Recorded Sparrow

This means the Rufous-crowned Sparrow was around six years old, making him the oldest sparrow ever discovered in Noth America (generally worldwide)! 

Some sparrow species can last up to five years in the wild or captivity. For instance, the White-throated Sparrow has an average lifespan of four and a half years in captivity.

The Eurasian Tree Sparrow only lasts two and a half in captivity. It is also worth noting that some species have survived up to six or even eight years in captivity!

The Causes of Death for Sparrows

The most common cause of death for sparrows is a disease, followed by predation, collision with man-made objects, and starvation. 

For some reason, collisions with cars seem to be one of the most common causes of death among sparrows in North America. 

Other causes are hunting and electrocutions from power lines, where they love perching to get an uninterrupted view of the world.

How to Tell if a Sparrow is Nearing the End of Its Life

a Sparrow is Nearing the End of Its Life

The easiest way to tell if a sparrow is nearing its death is by looking for aging signs such as:

  • Difficulty keeping up with other members of the flock
  • Less singing or calling
  • Trouble jumping on perches or flying high into trees.
  • Inability to defend themselves from predators.
  • Visible injuries on their bodies.

Why Do Sparrows Have a Relatively Short Lifespan?

Sparrows have a relatively short lifespan due to their small size and lightweight, which makes them vulnerable to predators and other dangers in the wild. 

However, according to our research, sparrows are built for speed, not endurance! 

They have short wings, which limits their ability to fly for long periods or over large distances, and they have fast metabolisms that require them to eat constantly. 

Sparrows are opportunistic eaters and often feed on seeds and insects alike, so they’re not particularly selective regarding food sources. 

This means that they are more likely than many other bird species to ingest toxins or get poisoned by something in their environment.

These factors combined can lead to a fairly short lifespan for poor sparrows.

Do Sparrows Live Longer in Wild than in Captivity?

Well-cared-for sparrows in aviaries, zoos, or kept as pets may live more years than wild sparrows.

Sparrows Live Longer in Wild than in Captivity

However, not all sparrows species will adapt well in captivity. Some will have a very short lifespan and survival chances due to factors like stress, fatigue, and mishandling.

Factors that Affect a Sparrow’s Lifespan

Like any other animal, these little birds have lifespans, and the number of years they can live varies by species, but many other factors affect their life expectancy.

Toxic Substances

Some environmental factors, like toxic substances, can affect the sparrow’s life timeline. 

Sparrows eat insects and bugs that live on or near the ground. This means they can easily ingest toxic substances such as pesticides and herbicides.

 Ingesting these substances often leads to an early death for sparrows.


Sparrows, like many other animals, live in different environments. This can have an impact on their lifespan in various ways.

For example, sparrows that live in the Arctic have much shorter lifespans due to the cold climate and lack of food resources. 

In contrast, sparrows that live near wetlands or other bodies of water may have longer lifespans because they are more likely to be able to find food sources there.

Sparrows living in an urban environment are likely to be attacked or hit by a vehicle. Those in rural areas or free from exposure, their lifespan will be closer to the average. 

Weather Conditions

Sparrows are highly sensitive to weather conditions. A sudden temperature change can shorten the lifespan of a sparrow. 

If they live in a harsh climate, their life expectancy will be lower than in an area with mild weather.

For example, long periods of cold weather during the winter will drastically shorten a sparrow’s life span, while warm and rainy conditions could lengthen it. 

A cold or hot day can also impact the bird’s lifespan, especially if they endure those conditions for long periods without access to food or water.

Food Availability

One of the most important factors affecting the lifespan of the sparrow is how available food is. 

Sparrows eat mostly insects and arthropods but sometimes eat plants, chia seeds, safflower seeds, suet cakes, acorns, and more. 

Insects tend to be seasonal, and there can be times when they’re not enough around to feed all of the sparrows in an area. 

If this happens for a long period, many sparrows will die due to starvation.

During colder months, when food isn’t readily available, more sparrows die because they have insufficient sustenance to eat. 

By contrast, plentiful food allows many birds to live longer since they get all their needed nourishment.

When there’s not enough food to go around, sparrows will fight for what they can get. This not only harms other sparrows but also puts stress on their bodies. 

The more they fight, the more likely they are to get injured and lose a lot of energy. The more injured they become, the less likely they can survive.


Predation is one of the most important factors affecting a sparrow’s lifespan. Predation can come from cats, hawks, reptiles, or other hungry animals. 

They have few defenses against these predators, and their small size means they are often an easy catch.

The nestlings’ fledging period is also difficult for the sparrow as it leaves the nest and becomes more vulnerable to predators.

Generally, the more predators there are, the shorter the lifespan. This phenomenon is called predator-prey population dynamics.

Disease and Parasites

Parasites and disease are all factors that can shorten the lifespan of a sparrow. Parasites, like fleas and ticks, feed on blood and can cause anemia in their hosts. 

The disease spreads through contact between animals or being carried in the wind. Fleas also carry other diseases, such as Lyme Disease, which can lead to kidney failure. 


Sparrows are small birds that spend much time on the ground or flying. This makes them prone to collisions with other objects, such as vehicles or buildings, especially windows.

sparrows collision

The collisions cause significant injuries to the sparrow and can even result in broken bones or internal bleeding.

Furthermore, other animals may eat an injured or dead sparrow before it gets picked up by wildlife control professionals or bird lovers.

Type of Habitat

Sparrows live in various habitats, including forests and rural or urban areas, but it’s unclear which habitat is most conducive to their lifespan.

Generally, a sparrow’s lifespan is greatly affected by the type of habitat they call home. 

A sparrow living in an urban environment with lots of humans, noise, and pollution can live than their average lifespan. 

A sparrow in the forest or jungle might live for more than two years because there’s less pollution and fewer things to threaten them.

A sparrow living in an area with abundant food sources will live longer than one who lives in areas with stiff competition for food.


Sparrows are migratory birds that travel distances of up to 1000 miles in their lifespan. Some individuals will not reach their destination or return to their breeding grounds.

Food shortage and predation often affect sparrows during their long-distance migrations. 

Some sparrows die from severe weather conditions like freezing temperatures or strong winds if they migrate too early or late in the year.

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