Sparrow

February 21, 2022

When I got up yesterday, I noticed one of the small house sparrows who have been frequenting our feeders had gotten through a hole in screen of the fire pit on our back patio.  I was afraid he would not be able to escape as he flailed against the top of the screen.  I thought I may as well do double duty and refill my feeders since the birds had been hitting them hard in the mornings for the last two days.  I loaded my pan with the black oil sunflower seed I keep in two of the feeders and headed out to the patio.  I never seem to give the birds enough credit.  By the time I got outside the sparrow had extricated himself from the mesh.  I went ahead and filled the feeders knowing that the second bird wave would come in the evening.

When I looked online, I found the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is a bird of the family Passeridae, found in most parts of the world.  It is a small bird that has a typical length of 6.3 inches (16 cm) and weighs 0.85–1.39 ounces (24–39.5 g).  Females and young birds are pale brown and grey in color, and males have brighter black, white, and brown markings.  The house sparrow is one of about 25 species in the genus Passer and is native to most of Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, and a large part of Asia. The first US introduction was in 1851–1852 when 100 birds were brought to Brooklyn, New York hoping to control caterpillars that were harming shade trees.  Additional releases occurred in other areas of the country from 1871-1874.  The birds did not eat the caterpillars.  In less than 50 years, this small bird ranged across the entire US and well into Canada.  Its intentional or accidental introductions to many regions, including parts of Australasia, Africa, and the Americas, make it the most widely distributed wild bird.

Although misnamed English Sparrow, and commonly known as the House Sparrow, the species is not particularly a native of England nor is not a sparrow.  This bird’s origin is thought to have been in the Mediterranean and it is a member of the Weaver Finch family.  The house sparrow is strongly associated with human habitation and can live in urban or rural settings.  Although it is found in varied habitats and climates, it usually avoids areas away from human habitation.  The sparrow feeds mostly on the seeds of grains and weeds, but it is an opportunistic eater and will eat insects and other foods.  The birds are widespread and abundant and are listed as “least concern” on the IUCN Red List.

THOUGHTS:  The house sparrow it yet another invasive species brought by humans hoping to resolve one ecological problem and creating another.  These birds are highly aggressive when protecting their own nests and are known to attack other species nests and destroy the eggs.  Their numbers have recently declined in both their native country and in the US, and birders do not consider the invasive birds to cause population decline in native species.  House sparrows are non-natives and cause an imbalance in nature.  During the European age of exploration invasive species were spread accidentally and knowingly around the world causing species loss and eco-damage.  We need to take this to heart as we venture into space.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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