A Case of Intraspecific Killing in Passerines: The House Sparrow (Passer Domesticus)

Guillaume Halliez 1  and Clémence Marie Lucie Becel 2
  • 1 Chrono-Environnement Laboratory, University of Franche-Comte/CNRS - 16 route de Gray, Besancon, France
  • 2 Universitary Group of Naturalists of Franche-Comte - 16 route de Gray, Besancon, France


Even if intraspecific conflict is a well-known behaviour in birds, intraspecific killing among passerines is very rare in the literature. Cases of intraspecific predation among passerines constitute a very small percentage of published reports, and many of the cases are based on circumstantial evidence. In March 2013, we witnessed a group of House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) kill a conspecific male adult in the village of Gonsans (France, Doubs department). During the reproductive season three explanations of others studies (lack of food, weak condition and territorial behaviour during) could be relevant in our case. In conclusion, it appears that our observation is a very rare one and the second one for the House Sparrow.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Andersen, E. M. 2004. Intraspecific predation among Northwestern Crows. - The Wilson Bulletin 116(2): 180-181. DOI: 10.1676/03-113

  • Barnes, J. A. G. 1975. The Titmice of the British Isles. - David & Charles, Newton Abbot, pp. 212

  • Beckmann, C. 2008. An intraspecific killing in adult Pacific Reef Egrets (Egretta sacra). - The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 120(2): 422-424. DOI: 10.1676/07-097.1

  • Bichet, C., Scheifler, R., Coeurdassier, M., Juillard, R., Sorci, G. & Loiseau, C. 2013. Urbanization, trace metal pollution and malaria prevalence in the House Sparrow. - PLoS ONE 8(1):e53866. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053866.

  • Caris, J. L. 1958. Great Tit killing and carrying Goldcrest. - British Birds 51: 355.

  • Cawston, J. M. 1983. One Moorhen killing and eating another. - British Birds 76: 451.

  • Clevenger, G. A. & Roest, A. I. 1974. Cannibalism in Red-tailed Hawk. - The Auk 91: 639.

  • Cottrille, B. D. 1950. Death of a Homed Lark in territorial combat. - The Wilson Bulletin 62: 134-135.

  • Crossland, A. C. 1995. A probable case of intraspecific killing in Turnstones (Arenaria interpres). - Notornis 42: 281-282.

  • Davis, D. E. 1940. Social nesting habits of the Smoothbilled Ani. - The Auk 57: 472-484.

  • Drent, P. J., van Oers, K. & Noordwijk, A. J. V. 2003. Realized heritability of personalities in the Great Tit (Parus major). - Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B: 270: 45-51. DOI: 10.1098/ rspb.2002.2168

  • Estók, P., Zsebõk, S. & Siemers, B. M. 2010. Great Tits search for, capture, kill and eat hibernating bats. - Biology Letters 6: 59-62. DOI: 10.1098/ rsbl.2009.0611

  • Fisher, B. M. 1975. Possible intra-specific killing by a Great Gray Owl. - Canadian Field Naturalist 89: 71-72.

  • Fox, L. R. 1975. Cannibalism in natural populations. - Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 6: 87-106.

  • Giraudoux, P., Delattre, P., Habert, M., Quéré, J. P., Deblay, S., Defaut, R., Duhamel, R., Moissenet, M. F., Salvi, D. & Truchetet, D. 1997. Population dynamics of fossorial Water Vole (Arvicola terrestris scherman): a land use and landscape perspective. - Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 66: 47-60.

  • Gosler, A. G. 1993. The Great Tit. - Hamlyn Ltd., London, pp. 155 Grubbs, V. L. 1977. An intraspecific mortal attack. - The Wilson Bulletin 89: 477.

  • Huston, P. & Barter, M. 1990. Morphometrics of Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) in Australia. - The Stilt 17: 17-23.

  • Joslin, D. 1964. Male Pied Wagtail killing another and persistently attacking the corpse. - British Birds 57: 329-330.

  • Krebs, J. R. 1982. Territorial defence in the Great Tit (Parus major): do residents always win? - Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 11: 185-194.

  • Kuerzi, R. G. 1941. Life history studies of the Tree Swallow. - Proceedings of the Linnean Society, N.Y. 52-53: 1-52.

  • Legay, P. & Weidmann, J. C. 2005. Suivi temporel des oiseaux communs par points d'écoute (STOC EPS) [Temporal monitoring of common birds by listening points (STOC EPS)]. - Bilan de la saison 2005 en Franche-Comté, p. 13. (in French)

  • Loflin, R. K. 1982. Ani male apparently killed by other Anis while attempting to parasitize nest. - The Auk 99: 787-788.

  • Lombardo, M. P. 1986. A possible case of adult intraspecific killing in the Tree Swallow. - The Condor 88: 112.

  • Lorenz, K. Z. 1963. On aggression. - Harcourt, Brace, and World, New York, pp. 306

  • Polis, G. A. 1980. The effect of cannibalism on the demography and activity of a natural population of desert scorpions. - Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 7: 25-35.

  • Polis, G. A. 1981. The evolution and dynamics of intraspecific predation. -Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 12: 225-251.

  • Selva, N., Jedrzejewska, B., Jedrzejewski, W. & Wajrak, A. 2005. Factors affecting carcass use by a guild of scavengers in European temperate woodland. - Canadian Journal of Zoology 83: 1590- 1601. DOI: 10.1139/z05-158


Journal + Issues