AIM: To investigate the role of free-living animals such as sparrows, rodents and flies as potential reservoirs of Campylobacter spp on a dairy farm, and to assess the genetic diversity among Campylobacter isolates from the farm and an urban source. METHODS: A total of 290 samples (bovine, passerine and rodent faeces, and whole flies) were collected from a large commercial dairy farm in the Manawatu district in New Zealand, and from faeces from urban sparrows in a nearby city. Other samples collected from the dairy farm included five from silage, two from aprons worn by workers during milking, two from workers’ boots and two from water in troughs in a paddock. Isolates of thermophilic Campylobacter spp were identified morphologically and phenotypically and further characterised molecularly using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and the restriction enzyme SmaI. RESULTS: Campylobacter jejuni was the only Campylobacter species isolated from all samples. The highest prevalence was found in faeces from dairy cows (54%), followed by faeces from sparrows from the urban area (40%) and the farm (38%), and from rodents (11%) and whole flies (9%). Other samples from the farm environment such as silage, trough water, and workers’ aprons and boots were also positive for C. jejuni. Of the 22 restriction patterns obtained, seven were common to more than one source. CONCLUSIONS: Cattle, sparrows, rodents and flies are potential reservoirs of C. jejuni on dairy farms. Identical clones of C. jejuni carried by cattle, sparrows, flies and rodents probably indicate a common source of infection. The high level of asymptomatic carriage of C. jejuni by healthy dairy cows could be sufficient to maintain infections within the dairy farm surroundings via environmental contamination.