Old World Sparrows (Passeridae)

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow (Passer diffusus) - HBW 14, p. 803

French: Moineau sud-africain German: Damarasperling Spanish: Gorrión Sudafricano
Other common names: Cape Sparrow(!)

Taxonomy: Pyrgita diffusa A. Smith, 1836, "North of the Orange river" = near Kuruman, Cape Province, South Africa.
Forms a superspecies with P. griseus, P. swainsonii, P. gongonensis and P. suahelicus; all are often treated as conspecific, but they appear not to interbreed in at least parts of their ranges where geographical overlap occurs. It is suggested that an earlier population of grey-headed sparrows was split into five groups by a pluvial period in Pleistocene; as climate became drier, these five then spread and again came into contact with one another, but by then had become sufficiently distinct to remain separate, partly through minor habitat preferences and morpholog.. View all taxonomy...

Taxonomy: Pyrgita diffusa A. Smith, 1836, "North of the Orange river" = near Kuruman, Cape Province, South Africa.
Forms a superspecies with P. griseus, P. swainsonii, P. gongonensis and P. suahelicus; all are often treated as conspecific, but they appear not to interbreed in at least parts of their ranges where geographical overlap occurs. It is suggested that an earlier population of grey-headed sparrows was split into five groups by a pluvial period in Pleistocene; as climate became drier, these five then spread and again came into contact with one another, but by then had become sufficiently distinct to remain separate, partly through minor habitat preferences and morphological differences. Race mosambicus sometimes considered to belong with P. griseus, and stygiceps sometimes believed to represent darker end of cline in plumage coloration of nominate or possibly a hybrid between nominate race of present species and race ugandae of P. griseus; further study in area of overlap between the two species required in order to resolve extent to which these taxa are isolated and extent to which they intergrade. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution:

  • diffusus ( A. Smith, 1836) - W & S Angola E to SW & S Zambia, S to Namibia (except SW), Botswana, W Zimbabwe and W South Africa (except much of SW).
  • luangwae Benson, 1956 - upper Luangwa Valley, in E Zambia.
  • mosambicus van Someren, 1921 - SE Tanzania and N Mozambique.
  • stygiceps Clancey, 1954 - SE Zambia, S Malawi, N & E Zimbabwe, C & S Mozambique, NE & E South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho.