Iago sparrow -- 棕背麻雀 (Passer iagoensis)

Iago sparrow perched on a rock
Loading more images and videos...

Iago sparrow fact file

Iago sparrow description

GenusPasser (1)

A rather attractive small sparrow, the male Iago sparrow has a black or blackish-grey crown, forehead and eyestripe, a small patch of white on the lower forehead, and a small black ‘bib’ on the chin and throat. The sides of the head, above the eye, are a rich cinnamon-brown, and there is a cinnamon-brown patch and small white bar on the scapulars (‘shoulders’). The rest of the upperparts and wings are brownish, streaked with black and buff, and the tail is brown. The cheeks are white and the underparts are grey or off-white. The beak becomes black during the breeding season. The female Iago sparrow is more drab, with grey-brown upperparts and wings, streaked with black, and greyish underparts. A prominent pale cream stripe above the eye helps distinguish the female from the similar-looking female house sparrow, Passer domesticus. The juvenile Iago sparrow is similar in appearance to the adult female, but young males are a warmer brown colour, with a blackish chin and a cinnamon-brown stripe above the eye. The calls of the Iago sparrow include various chirps and churrs, and the song is a series of call notes strung together (2).

Also known as
Cape Verde sparrow, rufous-backed sparrow.
Passer motitensis iagoensis.
Moineau des Iles Cap-Vert.
Length: 12.5 - 13 cm (2)

Iago sparrow biology

The Iago sparrow is a sociable bird, found in small, loose colonies during the breeding season and in larger flocks at other times. Feeding usually occurs on the ground or in vegetation, with the sparrow typically running or hopping along the ground in search of food. The diet comprises grain, grass seeds, household scraps, and some insects, and the Iago sparrow may also do some damage to cereal crops by feeding on the shoots and buds. The young are fed mainly on insects (2). There is little other information available on the breeding behaviour of the Iago sparrow, though it is reported to share many of its habits with the better-known house sparrow (2).


Iago sparrow range

The Iago sparrow is endemic to the Cape Verde Islands, in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, where it occurs on at least nine of the ten major islands in the chain (2) (3).


Iago sparrow habitat

The Iago sparrow occurs in a variety of habitats, including open desolate lava plains, cliffs, gorges, edges of cultivation, and also urban areas and gardens (2) (4). It can be found at elevations of up to 1,200 metres, and is thought to occur in areas where the Spanish sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis) is absent (2).


Iago sparrow status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Iago sparrow threats

Although the global population size of the Iago sparrow is not known, it is believed to be fairly common (2) (4). However, as an island species with a rather restricted range, the Iago sparrow may be particularly vulnerable to any random environmental changes or man-made threats.

Since being colonised by the Portuguese in the 15th Century, the landscape of the Cape Verde Islands has been extensively converted from dry forest and scrub to a largely agricultural landscape, with native habitats severely fragmented. Introduced predators and livestock have also caused further damage to native flora and fauna (3). Although the Iago sparrow appears able to adapt to urban and cultivated environments, it faces competition from the introduced house sparrow, and in particular from the Spanish sparrow, which has displaced the Iago sparrow from some areas (5).


Iago sparrow conservation

There are no known conservation measures currently in place for the Iago sparrow. Information on the species is rather lacking, so the Iago sparrow may benefit from further research into its biology and ecology, and into any threats it faces.

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

Find out more

To read more about the Iago sparrow and other sparrow species see:

Clement, P., Harris, A. and Davis, J. (1993) Finches and Sparrows: An Identification Guide. Christopher Helm, London.

To find out more about the Cape Verde Islands dry forests see:


For more information on this and other bird species please see:



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: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk


A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2009)
  2. Clement, P., Harris, A. and Davis, J. (1993) Finches and Sparrows: An Identification Guide. Christopher Helm, London.
  3. WWF: Cape Verde Islands Dry Forests (April, 2009)
  4. BirdLife International (April, 2009)
  5. Williamson, M.H. (1996) Biological Invasions. Population and Community Biology Series 15. Chapman & Hall, London.

Image credit

Iago sparrow perched on a rock  
Iago sparrow perched on a rock

© Chris Batty

Chris Batty


Link to this photo

Arkive species - Iago sparrow (Passer iagoensis) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top