The Italian Sparrow: National Bird of Italy

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: December 18, 2022
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Italy has a wide variety of bird species, from the beautiful blue feathered European roller to the majestic Bonelli’s eagle. The nation also has common birds like pigeons, wood ducks, and doves, as well as shorebirds like sandpipers and gulls. Some countries choose their national bird based on strength, while others choose a bird that represents everyday life. What is the national bird of Italy? Are there some birds that are only found in Italy?  Read on to learn all about the national bird of Italy!

What is the National Bird of Italy?

The national bird of Italy is the Italian sparrow. The Italian sparrow is a common bird that makes its home in a variety of small towns and average-sized cities. They may also live in large urban areas like Tuscany, Naples, and Rome. They are small passerines, or perching birds, that can be seen hopping about the sidewalk or perching in park trees.

What do Italian Sparrows Look Like?

Italian sparrow

They have a dark brown crown, black mask around the eyes, white cheeks, and a speckled “bib” under their beak.

©Davide Bonora/

Italian sparrows are plump little birds with light brown/gray feathers on their back and white bellies. The pattern on their head is what distinguishes them from other sparrows. They have a dark brown crown, black mask around the eyes, white cheeks, and a speckled “bib” under their beak. Females resemble the female house sparrow, without the black markings on the face and bib. Males are a little larger than females, growing to between 5 ½ – 6 inches.

What do Italian Sparrow Eat?

Their diet consists of seeds, small insects, cracked corn, wheat, and cereal grains. Their sharp beaks help them crack open seeds and grain. Commercial birdseed that often includes sunflower seeds and dried corn is also one of this sparrow’s favorite foods. Like other urban birds, it is not uncommon for them to feed on discarded food. A chunk of olive oil-soaked Italian bread would make a fine dinner!

Are Italian Sparrows a Hybrid of Spanish Sparrows and House Sparrows?

There is some debate over the origin of the Italian sparrow. Most of the research shows that it was originally a hybrid of the house sparrow and Spanish sparrow. But it can now hold its own as a separate species (Passer italiae). The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is one of the most common birds in the world. They originated in Europe but have been introduced to North America, South America, Africa, and parts of Asia. The Spanish sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis) looks very similar to the house sparrow. However, it’s larger and has a longer beak.

Is the Italian Sparrow Featured on the Italian Flag?

The Italian flag has three equal vertical stripes of green, white, and red, and does not include the Italian sparrow. The national flag is celebrated every Flag Day which is January 7 and is called Tricolour Day.

Are Italian Sparrows Endangered?

No, Italian sparrows are not considered endangered, but they are listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN. The last evaluation was conducted in August of 2018 where conservationists concluded that the numbers of Italian sparrows was decreasing. Interestingly, in 2016, the Italian sparrow was listed as a species of “Least Concern.” Now conservationists are questioning why there has been such a decline. Their report states, “The causes behind the species’ decline are uncertain.” Other species are being affected by pesticides used for agriculture but that doesn’t explain why urban populations are decreasing. More research is needed to distinguish major threats so Italians can continue to enjoy their lively national bird.

What is the National Animal of Italy?

The national animal of Italy is the Italian wolf. The Italian wolf, also called the Apennine wolf, is a subspecies of the gray wolf that lives on the Italian Peninsula. According to Roman mythology, the city of Rome was founded by the twin brothers Romulus and Remus. While there are variations on the myth, most include the twins being sent down the Tiber River in a basket. When the basket gets tangled up along the shore, a she-wolf finds them and takes them in. The twins are finally found by a shepherd and his wife, who adopt the boys and raise them.

What other Animals Live in Italy?

Other animals in Italy include the Etruscan shrew, the smallest mammal, and the North Atlantic right whale, which is endangered. The Etruscan shrew weighs .063 ounces, while the North Atlantic right whale can weigh up to 140,000 pounds!

One of the most dangerous animals in Italy is the Marsican brown bear, or Apennine brown bear. These are another endangered animal in the country. The alpine ibex is a large mountain goat-like animal with long spiraled horns that extend backwards. It can be found in the mountains of Italy. The Corsican hare can be found on the mainland, as well as on Sicily. The Eurasian lynx was extinct from Europe for years but was reintroduced and is now in some areas of Italy. It has a black-tipped tail and tufts of black hair coming off its ears.

Are there Parakeets in Rome?

Parakeets are not native Italian animals but they have established breeding populations in Rome. The theory is that over the years a number of rose-ringed parakeets escaped or were released into the wild. The rose-ringed parakeets are bright green with a red beak and black ring around their neck. You are likely to see these birds at the Villa Dora Pamphilj and the Villa Borghese. They are social birds, so they travel in pairs or in a flock. It is highly unlikely Italian sparrows will interact with non-native parakeets, but they may cross paths in large parks.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © rylansamazingphotography/

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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