Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia petronia (Linnaeus, 1766)

Order: Passeriformes Family: Passeridae Status: Breeding in Madeira

Petronia petronia petronia
Rock Sparrow
Rock Sparrow

Recommended birdwatching tours to watch this bird

Half-day birdwatching

Rock Sparrow Field ID Keys

Shape & Size

Fairly big sparrow with large bill.

Colour Pattern

Rock Sparrow is mostly brown-grey with sandy coloured stripes on back, bold cream and blackish stripes on head, heavy, cone-shaped, light-coloured bill and a small yellow patch below adult’s throat. Its underparts are whitish with long light grey stripes. In flight it shows white spots on the tail tip.


In Madeira this is a very shy species, not sociable. It normally forms flocks usually perched on rocky sea cliffs, being only noticed by its distinctive nasal call. Its flight is low, quick and undulating over distances with tail often fanned.


This species is associated with rocky and open scrubby hillsides overlooking the sea and dry stony areas.
Rock Sparrow is not very abundant in Madeira and Porto Santo islands, as its population suffered a large decline around the decade of the 30’s, due to the arrival and competition of Spanish Sparrows. In Madeira it was found at the eastern and western tips of the island though since the devastation of Ponta do Pargo for the construction of a golf course, by 2008, this species has not been observed on that western tip of the island since.

Distinction from similar species

Rock Sparrow may resemble a Corn Bunting though this last species is a bit larger and has a plainer head with shorter and thinner bill.

Petronia petronia Biometrics

Wingspan: 21 - 23 cm (Hume, 2002)
Total length: 15 - 17 cm (Svensson et al, 2009)
Weight: 20 - 28 g (Hume, 2002)

Other Bird Facts

Seasonality in Madeira: All year
Breeding: Need broken ground or cliffs with cavities to nest, laying 5 to 6 eggs in up to three broods a year between April and July though nests have been found in February in Porto Santo.
Diet: Eats seeds and invertebrates from the ground.


Madeira local status by Correia-Fagundes et al, 2021: Rare breeding bird
Madeira local status by Romano et al, 2010: Rare breeding bird
Madeira local status by Zino et al, 1995: Common breeding bird
Conservation status by the IUCN Red List Categories, 2013: Least Concern ver 3.1

Name of this species in other languages

Madeiran: Pardal-da-terra
Portuguese: Pardal-francês
German: Steinsperling-petronia, Steinsperling
Dutch: Rotsmus
Swedish: Stensparv
Danish: Stenspurv
Finish: Kalliovarpunen
Norwegian: Steinspurv
Spanish: Gorrión chillón
French: Moineau soulcie
Italian: Passera lagia, Passera lagia striata
Polish: Wróbel skalny
Slovak: Skalník žltohrdlý
Czech: Vrabec skalní
English synonyms: Rock Petronia

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