Golden Song Sparrow

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Dick Daniels

Is the Golden Song Sparrow right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Sudan Song Sparrow

Scientific name: Passer luteus

The basics:
Despite their name, the Golden Song Sparrow is a delightful aviary bird not because of its song, which may resemble the House Sparrow's chirp a bit more than you might expect, but because of the adult male's beautiful plumage. In the right setting, breeders may be entertained by watching them construct their large, domed, sometimes quite sloppy nests.

The Golden Song Sparrow is a tough little bird native to relatively harsh habitats of eastern and northern Africa like thorn scrublands and desert edges. Like their relative, the House Sparrow, they are not afraid of human towns, and they can visit towns and farmlands as well as grasslands in huge mixed-species foraging flocks.

The male Golden Song Sparrow has a golden head and underparts, offset by a rich chestnut colored back and wings. A double white wing bar adds a further tasteful touch to the dapper feathers. The female is considerably duller.

12 - 15 grams (0.4 - 0.5 oz.)

Average size:
12 - 13 centimeters (5 in.)

10 - 14 years

Behavior / temperament:
While the wild Golden Song Sparrow is noted for being bold and highly visible in its large flocks, the captive birds can be somewhat nervous if you do not give them the security of a large enough territory. They need room to fly, to explore, to build, and to dust bathe, in order for you to get the maximum enjoyment from observing their entertaining behaviors. Some breeders report that parents have stopped raising young if they became nervous from having a human check the nest box. They will also abandon the breeding attempt if they run out of live food.

The Golden Song Sparrow is a nomadic bird with an instinct to wander far and wide, and you must provide them with a larger flight cage than might seem reasonable for a bird their size. At the very least, a pair should have a secure powder-coated metal or stainless steel flight of a minimum size of around 2 x 2 x 2 feet with a ½ “ bar spacing. However, most people agree that you're unlikely to have much success breeding these birds unless you are willing to provide something much larger such as a walk-in aviary. When they're old enough, you can also provide nest cups and nest boxes, as well as plenty of building materials like twigs and grasses, to give them something to work with. Thick bushes in a well-planted aviary give you the best chance of success.

They like to dust bathe, and it's a good idea to provide clean sand for them to use. They have been held and even bred successfully in mixed species aviaries, but keep your eyes open. There have been reports both of Golden Song Sparrows attacking or just bothering other birds – and other reports of more aggressive species bullying the Song Sparrows.

The backbone of the Golden Song Sparrow diet should be a high quality small seed mix that includes a variety of fresh seeds including red millet. However, these birds cannot survive on an austere diet of hard seed alone. It is very important to soak or sprout fresh seed, so that you can offer healthy sprouted seed, including sprouted millet sprays, on a regular basis. They particularly enjoy greens, which they should receive several times a week. Chopped spinach, broccoli, kale, chickweed, dandelion, and other greens from pesticide-free sources will be cleaned up regularly. Shredded apples and carrots can always be added to the salad. All finches should have access to grit, as well as clean cuttlebone or another source of calcium.

Warning: Golden Song Sparrows also demand an astonishing amount of live food, especially if you expect to breed them. One breeder reported that he fed 250 mealworms a day to just two breeding pairs – as well as an uncounted quantity of maggots or waxworms. Another breeder simply said that Golden Song Sparrows are the rare species where you can never offer too much live food. Make sure you have a reliable supply of mealworms, crickets, and other live food before you start the breeding project.

Written by Elaine Radford

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