sparrow, common name of various small brown-and-gray perching birds. New World birds called sparrows are members of the finch family. They were named for their resemblance to the English sparrow and the European tree sparrow (members of the weaverbird family), both introduced in the Americas. Members of both groups have stout, conical beaks adapted to seed eating. Among the many sparrows found in the United States are the song sparrow, the white-throated sparrow (or peabody bird), and the chipping, white-crowned, vesper, Lincoln's, fox, field, tree, and swamp sparrows. Sparrows are valuable to farmers in destroying weed seeds. Originally sparrow meant any small bird; the word appears in this sense in Greek mythology and in the Scriptures.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.