Sparrow vs. Swallow

Sparrow vs. Swallow

Sparrow and swallow are small and genetically unrelated types of birds. There are around 140 species of sparrow that belong to the Passeridae family and 70 species of swallow that are members of the Hirundinidae family. Both types of birds can be found on all continents except on the Antarctica. Sparrow and swallow are songbirds. They are appreciated by humans because of their ability to eliminate unwanted insects from the gardens and households. Despite similar names, sparrows and swallows do not have much in common. These two types of birds differ in:


Swallows have bright blue feathers on the back, wings and tail and white or grey plumage on the belly. Males are more brightly colored than females. Most species of sparrow are brownish-white or yellowish-grey colored. Males can be recognized by brown streaks on the chest.

Body Shape and Size

Swallows have elongated, streamlined body and flat head. They can reach 3.9 to 9.4 inches in length and 0.35 to 2.12 ounces of weight. The most prominent features on the body are long, pointed wings and long, forked or notched tail. Unlike swallows, sparrows have stocky body that can reach 4.5 to 7.1 inches in length and 0.47 to 1.5 ounces of weight. Their head and tail are rounded and their wings are broad.


Both swallows and sparrows live in areas that provide plenty of open space. Swallows are usually found near the water (around lakes and waterways). Some species of swallow live in the grasslands, open woodlands, marshes and mangroves. Sparrows usually inhabit terrestrial ecosystems such as grasslands, deserts, scrublands, agricultural fields and open woodlands.


Both swallows and sparrows are omnivores (their diet is based both on the plants and animals). Insects are basic source of food for swallows. When insects become scarce, swallows switch to other available sources of food such as small animals and plants. Sparrows, on the other hand, primarily eat fruit and seed. They supplement plant-based diet with insects only during the breeding season. Unlike sparrows, swallows feed in the air. Thanks to their swiftness and maneuverability, swallows easily collect and eat insects in the air.

Nest and Chicks

Sparrows are social birds that live in loose colonies during the breeding season. They construct nests in the cavities of trees and buildings. Nests are made of grass, hay and feathers. Females lay 4 to 5 eggs. Incubation period lasts 11 to 14 days. Swallows also construct nests in the cavities of buildings, walls, cliffs and trees, but unlike sparrows, they use mud to construct their nests. Females usually lay 2 to 4 eggs. They hatch after incubation period of 14 to 18 days.

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