Java Sparrow Lonchura oryzivora


Justification of Red List Category
The popularity of this finch as a cagebird has resulted in intense trapping activity, which is inferred to be causing drastic declines in the population. Unless stringent regulations are enforced, these declines are likely to continue. While the population size meets the threshold for Endangered, there is a lack of information on recent rates of population reduction, beyond the inferred continuing decline and suspicion that there are rapid declines occurring. As such the species is listed as Endangered.

Population justification
The number of individuals has been estimated for about half of the global distribution, the central and eastern Java populations. These number 299-889 individuals, most likely not exceeding 1,000 individuals (Yuda 2008). Even though the potentially larger subpopulation on Bali is not included in this estimate, it is very likely that the global population does not exceed 1,500-3,750 individuals in total. The population size is therefore placed in the band of 1,000-2,499 mature individuals. Throughout its range, the population is highly fragmented.

Trend justification
A rapid and on-going population decline is inferred on the basis of trapping pressure from the Asian songbird trade. The rate of the reduction is suspected to have been very rapid for a time between the 1960s and 1980s (BirdLife International 2001), and the species disappeared from many previously occupied sites during this period. Muchtar and Nurwatha (2001) revisited 64 known sites, finding the species still present at only 17. In Yogyarkarta province, surveys in 2017-18 of previously occupied sites revealed the loss of the species from 9/14 sites, several of which held the species at least as recently as 2005 (Rosyadi et al. 2019).

Yuda (2008) estimated that 38% of adults had been trapped in both 2004 and 2005 in central and eastern Java, a rate considered sufficient to drive rapid population reductions despite the species reasonably high fecundity. On Bali, rates of trapping are uncertain, as are the trends in trapping across the range. Many are bred in captivity and this makes estimating the scale and impact of trapping from the wild population highly uncertain. It is inferred that the current rates are sufficient to be driving a continuing population decline, but the rate of this decline is presently unknown.

Distribution and population

This species is a native endemic of the islands of Java, Bali, and probably Madura, Indonesia, although it has been widely introduced, with feral populations now established in many parts of the world. It was formerly widespread and abundant in its native range, but numbers crashed during the second half of the 20th Century (BirdLife International 2001). The majority of documented recent records within the native range derive from east Java and Bali, but it is now difficult to find, particularly on Java (N. Brickle in litt. 2012). A repeat survey of 64 former occupied sites located 109 individuals at 17 sites (Muchtar and Nurwatha 2001). This contraction of range appears to be continuing, with surveys in Yogyakarta in 2017-18 failing to find the species at 9 of 14 previously occupied sites (Rosyadi et al. 2019). In January 2020 the 'Big Month' community science event recorded the species in only 20 (0.25%) of the 7,935 tetrads (2 × 2 km squares) visited (T. Squires and S. Marsden in litt. 2020), despite a high level of participation and effort.
Feral populations (in Indonesia at least) have apparently declined precipitously. Information from elsewhere is insufficient to estimate its status as a feral species, and all conservation efforts should focus on its original native range.


It is usually a lowland species, chiefly found below 500 m but occurring locally up to 1,500 m. It has been recorded in many habitats, including towns and villages (where it was formerly one of the most common species), cultivated land (particularly rice-growing areas), grassland, open woodland, tree savanna, beach forest and even mangroves. It is gregarious, especially outside the breeding season. Post-breeding flocks appear to make substantial short-distance movements in response to local food supplies: the loss of abundance may have resulted in considerable fragmentation of the remaining population however the extent to which this is the case is uncertain.


Trapping for the domestic and international cagebird trade has probably been occurring for centuries, peaking in the 1960s and 1970s, and is the main cause of the decline. In central and eastern Java, a survey suggested that up to 38% of adults were trapped each year in 2004-2005, which might rapidly drive these populations to extinction (Yuda 2008). However, there are no estimates of trapping rates over a longer period or for the population on Bali. Overall, the species is traded in large quantities, especially for the markets in Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia (Gilbert et al. 2012, S. Chng in litt. 2016). Its flocking tendency, particularly at roost sites, renders it especially susceptible to mass trapping. Colonies found inside urban buildings (such as hotels and government buildings) may also be susceptible to damage due to renovations (Eaton et al. 2015). Ironically, even feral populations, originally introduced through trade, have subsequently been decimated for the same reason. Historically, it was regarded as a rice crop-pest, and consequently persecuted. Hunting for local consumption, possibly increased use of pesticides, and competition with the ecologically similar Tree Sparrow Passer montanus, are additional threats. The ongoing severe population decline has led to a very low genetic diversity, which renders the species vulnerable to stochastic events and adverse genetic effects (Yuda 2008). The species is prone to parasite infections, especially avian malaria (Yuda 2008).

Conservation actions

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. An embargo was placed on the capture quota for Java and Bali in 1995. The species is bred widely in captivity but is heavily trapped, almost to extinction within the natural range. It occurs in only very few protected areas, with recent records from only four: Cikepuh Wildlife Reserve, Baluran and Meru Betiri National Parks on Java, and Bali Barat National Park on Bali. Nest box schemes have been established, particularly in temples such as Prambanan temple complex in Central Java, albeit lack of funding halts any sufficient progress (Eaton et al. 2015). 

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Investigate the relative importance of current threats (excessive trade, persecution, pesticides, competition). Decrease the level of trapping. Promote strict enforcement of trade restrictions in wild birds, and devise means of meeting market demands from captive breeding. Develop and initiate programmes to protect remaining populations.


14-15 cm. Contrastingly patterned, open-country finch. Pearl-grey, becoming pinkish on belly and whitish towards vent, with a black head and conspicuous white cheeks. Black rump and tail. Massive pink bill. Voice Song begins with bell-like single notes, accelerating into a continuous trilling and clucking interspersed with high-pitched and deeper notes, sometimes ending with a drawn-out whistle. Also short, hard tup, chirrups and trills.


Text account compilers
Martin, R., Hermes, C., Fernando, E.

Benstead, P., Brickle, N., Chng, S., Gilroy, J., Khwaja, N., Marsden, S., Squires, T., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & van Balen, B.S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Lonchura oryzivora. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/07/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/07/2022.