Can you eat sparrows?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat sparrows?” and discuss is it good or bad for you?

Can you eat sparrows?

Yes, you can eat sparrows. Birds are an important component of the human diet, as poultry meat contains proteins and fats and other nutrients. However, it is not recommended to eat sparrows, due to the risk of foodborne infections associated with the preparation and consumption of game bird meat (5). 

The consumption of domestic and wild poultry is only safe when properly cooked. These birds may transmit many foodborne diseases, including Salmonellosis and Toxoplasmosis (3). 

Is Eating Sparrows Safe?

Eating sparrows is not safe. Differently from commercial poultry, which are harvested in a sanitized and controlled environment, wild birds are not vaccinated and grow under unhygienic conditions. As a consequence, the risk of infection of these birds by pathogenic bacteria is improved.

Wild birds are potential vehicles of zoonotic pathogen transmission to humans, especially Salmonelosis. In some countries, e.g. in Italy, the slaughtered carcasses of these species are imported from developing countries and commercialized for human consumption. 

The meat microbiological conditions are related to the gut microflora, as well as to the hygienic conditions in which these birds are hunted and slaughtered (1). It is necessary to ensure high hygienic conditions by slaughtering, cleaning, preparing and cooking the meat and to cook any bird meat at a temperature of minimum 165°F to eliminate bacterial contamination (2). Experienced and trained cooks are desirable. 

A study showed that carcasses of house sparrows slaughtered for human consumption had high levels of contaminations with pathogenic bacteria (1). Another study reported an infection rate of Y. pseudotuberculosis from 4% in sparrows, a bacteria able to cause yersiniosis, a systemic infection under stressful conditions whose symptoms are fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, which is often bloody (6).

Various apparently healthy wild birds have been found to contain Campylobacter fetus subsp. jejuni (C. jejuni), suggesting that this organism may be a normal component of the intestinal flora of at least some bird species (7).

What are the safety recommendations to prepare and cook sparrow meat? 

To safely prepare and cook sparrow meat, it is recommended to ensure the highest levels of hygiene by handling the meat, from the time the bird has been shot to the time it is served. Raw bird meat should be stored in sealed bags at the bottom of the fridge as early as possible.

Microbial contamination of wild birds is affected by hunting location, slaughter hygiene and storage conditions. Pathogenic bacteria can be carried on the external surfaces of birds and within the gastrointestinal tract of slaughtered birds. Once birds are killed, they must be sanitized and refrigerated.

Because domestic and wild birds may carry pathogens, it is necessary to cook the meat prior to consumption as well as to adopt good hygiene practices of food handling. Proper food hygiene practices center on cleanliness, separating raw meat from other raw/cooked foods, cooking at correct temperatures and chilling (storing) foods before and after cooking (4).

All meat types need to be properly cooked before consumption to avoid the intake of bacteria. For whole chicken, cooking should be at 180°C for 20 min. The same weight for pork and rolled meats should be cooked at the same temperature but for 35 min. Verifying all parts of the meat have received adequate heating is essential. 

Cutting into the thickest part of the meat to see if the juice runs clear indicates adequate cooking ensuring no part is pink. A thermometer or probe should be used domestically and in catering services for checking temperatures in different parts of food. Areas where meat is handled, and utensils should be color coded (4). 

How can you safely prepare and cook sparrows?

To safely prepare and cook sparrows, follow the instructions:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling the bird.
  • Wash the bird with running water, but avoiding splashing of water, in order to reduce contamination of the sink and surroundings
  • After washing the bird, the sink should then be immediately cleaned and sanitized, as well as the area around it
  • Wash your hands again with soap and water.
  • Separate a cutting board to be used it for the raw bird.
  • Never place cooked food or fresh produce on surfaces that have been held uncooked bird meat.
  • Wash cutting boards, utensils, dishes, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing the bird meat 
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure the temperature of the cooked bird meat reached 165°F internally
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftover chicken within 2 hours after cooking
  • Store cooked poultry for 3 days in the refrigerator and for 2 months in the freezer and reheat to an internal temperature of 165°F prior to consumption

What happens if you eat contaminated sparrows?

If you eat contaminated sparrows,  it is possible that you will be infected by a foodborne pathogen and experience symptoms of the foodborne illness. Wild birds can also carry foodborne bacteria (e.g. Salmonella, Campylobacter, Yersinia, and Listeria) in their intestines.

When not properly cooked, these pathogenic bacteria migrate from the ingested food into the consumer, infect the host and develop. Contamination may occur at any stage of the food chain and even after cooking. 

Symptoms of foodborne illnesses include abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea, vomiting, fever, muscular pain, headache and others.


In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat sparrows?” and we discussed is it good or bad for you?


  1. Pasquali, Frédérique, et al. Salmonella detection and aerobic colony count in deep-frozen carcasses of house sparrow (Passer domesticus) and starling (Sturnus vulgaris) intended for human consumption. It j food safe, 2014, 3, 2. 
  2. Chicken from Farm to Table. United States Department of Agriculture. 
  3. Guo, Miao, et al. Prevalence and risk factors for Toxoplasma gondii infection in meat animals and meat products destined for human consumption. J food protect, 2015, 78, 457-476.
  4. Ehuwa, Olugbenga, Amit K. Jaiswal, and Swarna Jaiswal. Salmonella, food safety and food handling practices. Foods, 2021, 10, 907.
  5. Sauvala, Mikaela, et al. Hunted game birds–Carriers of foodborne pathogens. Food Microbiol, 2021, 98, 103768.  
  6. Yersinia enterocolitica (Yersiniosis). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016. 
  7. Benskin, Clare McW H., et al. Bacterial pathogens in wild birds: a review of the frequency and effects of infection. Biol Rev, 2009, 84, 349-373.