Worldbirds.com is user-supported. When users buy via links on our website, we may earn a commission. More info

Sparrow Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)

sparrow

Sparrows are ubiquitous songbirds that twitter about in a variety of habitats spanning almost the entire globe. The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is, in fact, one of the most common and widespread animals on this planet. Although our familiarity with these birds often desensitizes us to their beauty, these common birds are no less fascinating and beautiful. (1)

Sacred to the goddess Aphrodite of the Greek pantheon, to Vishnu in Hindu mythology, and both Branwen and Rhiannon in Welsh mythology, the sparrow’s common nature has earned it a place in cultural traditions around the world. (2)(3)(4)

Whether you are looking to learn more about the little brown birds crowding around your feeders, or whether you feel a special connection to the sparrow, read on to learn more about the myths, symbols, and stories attached to this cheerful little bird.

Table of contents

Sparrow Symbolism and Meaning

House Sparrows are very closely associated with the home and family. With “house” in their common name and “domesticus” in their Latin name, it is no wonder that these little birds are connected with domesticity, warmth, familiarity, and gentleness.

Sparrows are usually members of one of two categories. Old World sparrows, like the House Sparrow, are more often thought of as “true sparrows” when compared with New World sparrows such as the White-crowned Sparrow. New World sparrows are closely related to buntings and finches. Both categories of sparrow, however, share a powerful conical bill built for cracking seed casings. Sparrows are industrious, hearty, adaptable, and evidently capable of carving out a living almost anywhere on this planet. (5)

So, sparrows may represent hard work, a positive attitude, endurance, or perseverance.

two sparrows

Sparrows are often seen in flocks of many birds, which are thought to operate with a “pecking order” similar to the hierarchical social constructs of chickens. Although these birds are small, they can be quite brave and aggressive when it comes to defending their turf. Sparrows will gregariously attack invaders who come too close to the sparrow’s nest site. (6)

In the United States, the House Sparrow is a very successful invasive species which is considered a pest in some contexts. Despite this, these birds play extremely important roles in human civilization. In the mid twentieth century, Mao Zedong declared war on sparrows in China because of their status as agricultural pests who feasted on grains. The culling of these birds, however, resulted in years of terrible deadly famine. The sparrows had been eating the grains, but they had also been eating the locusts and other insect pests which threatened the fields. Without sparrows, the insects grew out of control very quickly. (7) In the United States, House Sparrows have contributed much to science because they are so easy to breed, train, and study. Over 5,000 scientific papers have been written using the House Sparrow as a subject of study. (8)

So, the sparrow may represent the delicate balance of the earth’s ecosystem and the important and unexpected roles that each creature plays within it. Invasive sparrows can be very harmful, but it is necessary to remember that, in their proper native environment, these birds play an essential role.

Sparrow Native American Symbolism

Sparrows are not major figures in many Native American cultures, however lots of little myths and stories surrounding these birds exist throughout the Americas. In many cases, myths featuring the sparrow are used to explain natural phenomena like changing weather or animal behaviors.

One myth, for example, describes a beautiful but proud girl whose father was a great warrior. The girl was disinterested in male company and avoided marrying her many suitors by insulting their intelligence. When the loon courted her, the girl called him stupid and vain. When the fox courted her, the girl turned away and ignored him. Finally, the men of the village grew angry and tired of the girl’s insults. They asked the wily trickster Whirlwind to enact their revenge. Whirlwind, who had the magical ability to become invisible, blew over the girl and knocked her down. Enraged, the girl’s father had Whirlwind and his blind brother Rain banished from the village. Before very long, though, the people began to regret vanishing Whirlwind and Rain because the air was stagnant and the land was dry. They sent the bear to sniff out the brothers, but he couldn’t find them. They sent the fox but he failed too. Finally, the village chief sent the sparrow to find Whirlwind and Rain. The sparrow was clever so he tied a feather to a stick and held it. Then he flew in the direction from which the wind blew. After several days he found whirlwind and Rain sleeping in a cave. With great difficulty, the sparrow woke them up and convinced them to return. Flying ahead of Whirlwind, the sparrow went first to the sparrow village to tell them that Whirlwind and Rain would return to the land. The sparrows all celebrated. Then he went to the humans who were grateful and promised never to hunt his kind. So, to this day, the sparrows are not hunted and they are the first to know and celebrate when rainy weather is near. (9)

three sparrows

Other sparrow myths connect this bird with the changing of seasons, messengers, good news, good fortune, and positivity. (10)

Sparrow Christianity Symbolism

Sparrows are not important biblical characters, but they still show up in Christian iconography here and there.

One legend suggests that sparrows were the only birds present at Christ’s crucifixion, and are thus sacred symbols of sacrifice. Alternate versions of this story, however, state that sparrows were once much larger birds but were rendered small and helpless as punishment for harassing and mocking Jesus during his crucifixion. (11)

Another Christian legend states that whilst Jesus was a young boy, he performed a miracle by creating sparrows out of clay. According to this legend, the young Christ and several playmates were crafting clay animals to play with. The boys made horses, oxen, birds, and beasts. The young Jesus breathed life into his clay birds and they were transformed into live sparrows which heeded his commands and startled all the children in attendance. From then on, some of the children saw Jesus as a dangerous sorcerer, but the wisest of the children recognized his miraculous ability as something holy and sacred. (12)

Sparrow Celtic Symbolism

The sparrow in Celtic tradition is associated with magic, messengers, and femininity. According to some versions of the Mabinogi, the princess Branwen relied on a hand raised sparrow to communicate with her brother, the giant king Bran. In this story, the Welsh princess Branwen was imprisoned and mistreated by the Irish royal family that she had married into. Desperate to contact her brother Bran, Branwen found an injured sparrow (in some versions the sparrow is a starling) and nursed it to health. She began speaking to the sparrow and teaching the bird to speak back to her. After many months of speaking to nobody but the sparrow, the bird could understand and speak her language perfectly. So, Branwen sent her sparrow friend to find her brother. When the sparrow reached Bran, Bran decided to cross the sea and rescue his sister. (13)

sparrow

In this story, as in many others, the sparrow is a benevolent messenger which can be trusted to deliver one’s intentions.

Sparrow in Dreams

Dreaming of a sparrow is usually quite a pleasant experience. Most of the time, sparrow dreams represent something going on within one’s home. Dreaming of a pair of sparrows means that you feel a desire to connect with your loved ones and build a stable foundation.

Dreaming of a sparrow in flight can mean that a message is coming your way. Many cultures see sparrows as messengers who deliver both good and bad news. If you dream of a sparrow in flight then expect the answers you’ve been waiting for to come your way soon.

four sparrows

Dreaming of a deceased sparrow might indicate anxiety about your own mortality, aging, or the passage of time. Sparrows tend to live fairly fleeting lives. Dreaming of a sparrow can be a great reminder to seize the day and live life to the fullest.

Dreaming of baby sparrows might indicate that one has needs that aren’t being met. Young sparrows are very reliant on their parents until they learn to fend for themselves. Sparrow chicks in dreams can indicate that one feels neglected or helpless. Like a chirping sparrow chick, make sure to communicate your needs to your loved ones and voice your need for support.

Sparrow Encounters and Omens

Sparrows, perhaps due to their familiarity, are the subject of a number of superstitions. Sparrows are often seen as good luck charms or positive omens that signify peace and ease. Sailors sometimes sport sparrow tattoos out of a belief that these birds bring safe passage.

Some superstitions suggest that sparrows carry away the souls of the dead. For this reason, it is considered bad luck to harm a sparrow by many.

sparrow

Encountering a sparrow can be taken as a sign that one’s path is likely to shift soon. Sparrows are sometimes associated with navigation and can represent the branching paths of a person’s future.

Encountering a sparrow’s nest is a sign that one’s family is likely to grow in the near future. Sparrow nests and chicks are a very positive sign for couples looking to conceive.

Sparrow Mythology and Folklore

Because sparrows are so widespread and common, their cultural impact is felt worldwide. From India to Greece to the Americas, humble little sparrows feature in a number of myths, stories, and superstitions.

sparrow

One common source of sparrow folktales is Aesop’s Fables. Many of these moral-driven animal stories include the sparrow. In several fables, the sparrow is used as a disapproving or chiding voice. For example, in The Sparrow and the Nightingale, a nightingale is dutifully copying the notes played by a shepherd on his pipe. The sparrow hears the nightingale practicing the sounds of a human instrument and teases the bird for acting like a beginner when it has such an exceptional voice. The nightingale replies by reminding the sparrow that even experts can improve and learn from others. (14)

In The Sparrow and the Hare, an unlucky hare is captured by a hungry eagle. Delighting in the hare’s plight, a sparrow mocks the animal for being slow enough to be captured. In that moment, the sparrow himself is caught. This brings joy to the hare in its last moments as misery loves company. (15)

Sparrow Spirit Animal

If your spirit animal is the sparrow then you are most likely a docile and gentle person who enjoys building others up and creating a safe place for yourself and your loved ones to relax.

The sparrow spirit animal revels in domestic life but hates feeling trapped. Freedom is important to this bird, even if it will choose to use this freedom to stay in the comfortable home it has built.

People with the sparrow spirit animal enjoy nurturing others and may feel drawn to professions that involve caring for children, healing, or looking after the elderly.

sparrow

The sparrow spirit animal may be gentle by nature, but these birds are not shy by any means. People with the sparrow as their spirit animal are unafraid to pursue the things that they want with single-minded focus. Stand in the way of the sparrow spirit and you’ll see what their determination can do.

Sparrow Totem Animal

The sparrow totem animal is connected with unity, selflessness, and integrity. People with the sparrow as their totem tend to be great team players who cooperate well when united for a clear and worthy goal.

The sparrow knows that there is safety in numbers and will happily contribute to the flock. People with the sparrow totem animal are great at team work so long as they feel that their role is properly respected and that their peers see them as equals.

sparrow

The work ethic of the sparrow totem is a formidable force. Not prone to complaining, whining, or making excuses, the sparrow totem takes pride in its work and will always manage to get the job done. As an ally, the sparrow is pretty much indispensable.

Sparrow Power Animal

The sparrow holds the power to draw out honesty from others. Perhaps because this small little bird tends to be overlooked or underestimated, the sparrow power animal is given the opportunity to see past the masks that people where to cover their true intentions.

This exceptional clarity makes the sparrow an impeccable judge of character. If the sparrow is your power animal then it is extremely important that you trust your gut instincts and listen to your inner voice when it warns you about the behaviors of others.

sparrow

Sparrow Tattoo Meaning

A sparrow tattoo is a classic amongst sailors. Such a tattoo was traditionally used as a protective charm against death at sea, or as a way of guiding one’s soul home in the event of an unfortunate aquatic death. These days, a sparrow tattoo tends to be more symbolic and less superstitious in nature.

One might choose a sparrow tattoo to represent concepts such as positivity, familiarity, domesticity, and freedom.

sparrow

Additionally, sparrow tattoos may represent sociability, self expression, integrity, truth, or a good work ethic.

Conclusion

The ever-present sparrow is one of the birds that makes up the tapestry of nature that serves as the backdrop of our lives. In urban settings, these cheerful little birds remind us that no matter how metropolitan our lifestyles become, we are never truly removed from nature. The sparrow is one of the most adaptable and numerous animals on this planet, and so it too finds a way to live in almost every place that we do.

Related

14 thoughts on “Sparrow Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)”

  1. So I am curious, I came home after a travel for work and realized a sparrow was in my house. I found a dead sparrow in my dinning room and I was wondering what it meant. I was reading that it could be a bad omen and/ or good omen. Unsure of what it could be?

  2. Yesterday, I have seen a dead tiny hatchling desert sparrow in my balcony
    It was decomposed and no insects around it although the weather is hot. I didn’t remove it.
    What about the hatchlings sparrow death, is it the same as the Egyptian mythology?? ironically, I’m Egyptian . Also I was trying to shoot photo of it, two adults desert sparrows appeared suddenly on the edge of my terrace wall, loudly chirping as if they are calling me and trying to get my attention. Then I looked at them, they stopped chirping and we kept staring at each other for seconds, I felt if I touched the corpse, they will attack me. I ran inside and shut down the terrace door and the curtains. it gives me the willies and I don’t have a clue how will I remove it. I still can see it behind the terrace glass, it is still there laying on the floor.

  3. For the past few days, a sparrow has been coming to my bedroom window and pecking the window sometimes more than once a day, I believe it is the same sparrow and after some time, it flies away and comes back the next day, what could that mean?

    1. Hailey Brophy

      Birds occasionally mistake their reflections for other birds. During the breeding season especially this can cause them to act territorial or aggressive towards windows or car mirrors. My partner had a towhee friend who was absolutely obsessed with his car mirrors for an entire season once. I suspect that this is what you’ve experienced.

      I hope this helps!
      — Hailey Brophy
      Writer @ World Birds

    2. The sparrow is doing is exactly what Hailey said. However if you’re looking for the spiritual meaning of it. You definitely need to be paying attention to your surroundings. And go with your intuition and gutt… You really have a spirit of perseverance and strength inside of you but you need to know when to let go. Trust yourself more. You have a really strong sense of people around you. Just pull back when you need to to make those decisions that are vital for you right now.

  4. A friend of mine recently encountered a dead sparrow outside her home. She’s been through really hard times for a while now, both financially, family, and health wise. She had also discovered recently that an aunt died; an aunt that she most related to. Is the dead sparrow a bad omen?

    1. Jessica Neri

      I do not know if after all this time since April this matters but the death of the bird means the death of her family and the hardship she’s been through. Shedding of the old and letting go. Death to the pain, loss ex in the heart. She needs to let go! So she can move on and heal. Move towards happiness.

  5. I am looking for what it means when sparrows build their nest on your porch (balcony) of where you live. I recently moved here and am wondering if it was the right move, should I stay, make plans to move later. I am a shamanic practitioner and often find feathers in my walks. A pair of sparrows are building a nest at the top of a protected column on my porch/balcony. I have put out white millet and seed for them. I am wondering what their presence and nest-building represents for me.

    1. While moving is a big decision that involves a lot of different factors, as far as the sparrows are concerned I think the message is that you should stay. Sparrows are common symbols of domesticity and the home. To me, their presence indicates harmony.

      I hope this helps you!
      — Hailey Brophy
      Writer @ World Birds

    2. How are things going now for you. The nesting represents the new home that you’re in and the family that you’re building. And new beginnings. It’s a really good sign. I also couldn’t mean change and preparation.

  6. I was thinking of my deeased partner and asked for any sign from him that he was near me. 15 minutes later I am in the building where I work, and a sparrow was in the hallway. I wonder…

  7. yvonne perkins

    I had not seen sparrows for many years where I live and my best friend passed away a few days ago and yesterday a pair of chirping sparrows came to visit me on my balcony, they looked so happy I couldn’t help smiling …. I really enjoyed reading about them.

  8. I’d say that was pretty spot on. I had an amazingly intimate encounter with a wild sparrow. It was definitely carrying a message for me. Your article has helped me further clarify my existing understanding and knowledge of this miracle meeting. Thankyou!

  9. Heather Jordan

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your article, we are building a bungalow on a plot of land we have owned for 26 years. We have been repeatedly knocked back by the council but after all these years we have are now achieving our dream. The plot has a vast array of birds kingfishers, dippers ,wag tails, herons to name a few, it has a river running alongside it ,it is my piece of paradise. We have decided to call it Sparrow House, which after reading your article i know it is the most fitting name
    Thank you

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *