Java sparrow -- 禾雀 (Padda oryzivora)

Java sparrow
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Java sparrow fact file

Java sparrow description

GenusPadda (1)

The striking plumage of the Java sparrow has resulted in this bird being one of the few globally threatened species which have actually expanded in range (4), as it has been introduced all over the world as a consequence of the cage-bird trade. The Java sparrow has largely pearly-grey plumage, turning pinkish on the belly and white towards the tail. The head is black, which contrasts with the sharply defined white cheeks and large, vivid pink bill. The rump and tail are also black. The song of the Java sparrow begins with single notes, somewhat like a bell, developing into a continuous trilling and clucking, interspersed with high-pitched and deeper notes (5).

Padda de Java, Spermète de Java.
Length: 16 cm (2)

Java sparrow biology

The gregarious Java sparrow has been observed in flocks consisting of hundreds of individuals. They roost communally in tall trees, cultivated palms in towns, or shrubs, reeds or sugarcane in the country. In its natural range of Java and Bali, the vast extent of rice-farming has resulted in rice being the dominant food in the Java sparrow’s diet; so much so that the scientific species name oryzivora means ‘rice-eater’ (4). However, like other members of the finch family (the Estrildidae), the Java sparrow also feeds on the small seeds of grasses and flowering plants, and occasionally insects (4) (6).

Within the natural range of the Java sparrow, breeding extends from February to August, with a peak in April and May. The nest is a loosely built structure of dried grass, constructed under the roofs and eaves of buildings in towns and villages, or in bushes and treetops in more rural areas. Generally, clutches of three or four eggs are laid into these nests, although larger clutches have also been found (4).


Java sparrow range

Originally native to Java and Bali in Indonesia, and possibly also Madura, (an island off the north-eastern coast of Java), the Java sparrow has been widely introduced and populations are now established in many parts of the world, from Asia to Australia, Africa and North America (4).


Java sparrow habitat

Within its natural range the Java sparrow inhabits open woodlands, often bordering cultivated areas, and is also found in mangroves, grassland, towns and villages. It is found in both coastal and inland areas, up to 1,500 metres above sea level (2) (4).


Java sparrow status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Java sparrow threats

Within its native range, where it was once widespread and abundant, populations of the Java sparrow have suffered disastrous declines. This has been primarily attributed to exploitation for the domestic and international cage-bird trade, which has been occurring for possibly hundreds of years (4). Ironically, even in other areas of Southeast Asia where the Java sparrow was introduced as a result of cage bird escapes, numbers are now decreasing due to further trapping (7). Unfortunately, the gregarious, flocking nature of the Java sparrow makes it an easy target for bird catchers (4).

In addition to trapping, a number of other threats may hold some responsibility for this species’ decline. The excessive use of pesticides in rice fields in the 1960s may play a greater role in the population declines than is currently known. As the Java sparrow is frequently associated with agricultural land, it is therefore very susceptible to changes in agricultural practices. It is sometimes considered a rice crop-pest and sparrows on rice fields have been heavily persecuted, with adult birds being shot and nests being destroyed. Finally, possible competition with the tree sparrow (Passer montanus), a recent arrival within the range of the Java sparrow, and habitat loss, caused by the invasion of alang-alang grass (Imperata cylindrical), may be contributing to the decline of the Java sparrow (4).


Java sparrow conservation

The Java sparrow is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that any international trade in this species should be carefully monitored to ensure it is compatible with the species’ survival (3). Captive breeding of the Java sparrow is also taking place, which will help lessen the pressure on wild populations. Conservation efforts should strive to have the entire cage-bird market demand met by captive bred, rather than wild caught, individuals. Simultaneously, efforts should be made to raise awareness of the plight of the Java sparrow, and to turn people’s appreciation of this stunning bird into something other than merely a home decoration (4).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on the java sparrow see:

  • BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


Tending to form a group with others of the same species by habitually living or moving in flocks or herds rather than alone.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
  2. Strange, M. (2001) A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Indonesia. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
  3. CITES (March, 2008)
  4. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
  5. BirdLife International (March, 2008)
  6. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  7. Soeriaatmadja, R.S. (1997) The Ecology of Java and Bali. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Image credit

Java sparrow  
Java sparrow

© Tony Tilford /

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