The sparrows are a family of small passerinebirds, Passeridae. They are also known as true sparrows, or Old World sparrows, names also used for a genus of the family Passer. They are distinct from both the American sparrows, in the family Emberizidae, and from a few other birds sharing their name, such as the Java Sparrow of the family Estrildidae. Many species nest on buildings, and the House and Eurasian Tree Sparrows in particular inhabit cities in large numbers, so sparrows may be the most familiar of all wild birds. They are primarily seed-eaters, though they also consume small insects. Some species scavenge for food around cities and, like gulls or Rock Doves, will happily eat virtually anything in small quantities.
A passerine is a bird of the orderPasseriformes, which includes more than half of all bird species. Sometimes known as perching birds or, less accurately, as songbirds, the passerines form one of the most diverse terrestrial vertebrate orders; with over 5,000 identified species, it has roughly twice as many species as the largest of the mammal orders, the Rodentia. It contains more than 110 families, the second most of any order of vertebrates (after the Perciformes).
The names "passerines" and "Passeriformes" are derived from Passer domesticus, the scientific name of the eponymous species (the House Sparrow) and ultimately from the Latin term passer for Passer sparrows and similar small birds.