La. passer sparrow, small bird
La. forma form, kind, species
La. domus house
F. C. Hennessey
|About six inches long. Grayish brown, the
back streaked with black. Brown wings with white bars. Buff white underside. Narrow white
stripe over the eyes. White and chestnut cheek patches. White sides and neck. Black throat
An introduced species, it has prospered phenomenally, especially in
conjunction with human habitation to the consternation people and other birds.
The English House Sparrow was imported to North America to protect
trees from a caterpillar which is the larva of the Geometrid Moth. Many disagreed
with the wisdom of this move and even predicted they would become pests as they fed on
seeds and buds, not insects. Obviously, their words went unheeded.
Even after initial efforts failed, reintroduction was not only
renewed, a seemingly concerted effort ensured its start (probably not actually concerted,
but it might as well have been.) Sparrows now thrive throughout most of the
Eight pair were brought to the U.S. in 1850 for
the purpose of ridding the shade trees of inch worms and in the spring
of 1851 Nicholas Pike and other directors of the Brooklyn Institute
released them in Brooklyn, New York.
They did not survive. Nevertheless, destiny was on the side of
the Hoard and Pike arranged for the importation of one hundred
more which were released in 1852 and 1853.
In 1854 Colonel Rhodes imported and released some of the birds in Portland Maine and
some in Quebec. In the next ten years, a few hundred more were imported and released in
Quebec and the areas around Portland, Boston and New York.
In 1869, about one thousand were released in
Philadelphia. They were released in San Francisco, Cleveland,
Cincinnati, St. Louis and several other cities in the interior. Between 1874 and 1876 a few were released in Jackson and Owosso,
Michigan and in 1881 they were introduced in Iowa.
It wasn't long before the destruction of crops, the spread of disease
and parasites, competition with song birds, its filthy habits and a
population explosion revealed its introduction as a huge mistake.
But control and extermination attempts with bounties
and poison have proved useless against such a pervasive species. The winged rat is in complete possession of the continent. It does considerable
damage to grain crops and storage. The sparrow's movements between farms expedites the
spread of chicken lice and mites and livestock diseases which can be spread by mere
A few House Sparrows can multiply into thousands in a few years because they regularly
raise three and sometimes as many as five broods per year, each brood averaging around
five or six birds.
It builds nests in almost any nook or cranny in farms, towns and
cities. The droppings from large flocks roosting on houses and other buildings despoil
window trim, porches and ornamental work. It eats buds, young sprouts, flowers and seeds
of almost anything.
It is a persistent adversary of many birds, especially those that
seek shelter in bird houses or nest near humans including Bluebirds,
Wrens, Phoebes, Tree Swallows, Purple Martins, Song Sparrows,
Chickadees, Flycatchers Thrushes, Tanagers, Robins and more.
Since it is a year around resident it has a head start in the spring, invading the bird
houses we place for migrating song birds. It dominates feeders intended for song birds
leaving most of the seed on the ground uneaten.
Monitor bird houses with entrance holes larger than 1 3/8" diameter if you don't
want house sparrows. That is one
reason a popular bird house, the "Side Mount", has an entrance hole of 1 3/8"
diameter. Actually, 3/8" is
marginal and some small
sparrows may fit.
The side mount box may attract wrens, chickadees,
nuthatches, downy woodpeckers and tree swallows.