Bird of the Week | House Sparrow
Did you now that there are almost 300 species of Sparrow in the world? At least 35 species can be found in North America alone! “Sparrow” is actually a term to describe small finch-like birds, usually brown and gray in color and includes Juncos, Towhees and Buntings. Some of the more commonly seen Sparrows in the Eastern United States include the Field Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, White Crowned as well as White-Throated Sparrows, the Song, Swamp and Fox Sparrows.
When you think of Sparrows, the more common House Sparrow probably comes to mind; after all, they seem to be everywhere. House Sparrows are actually not even related to other North American Sparrows. These birds were first introduced to New York City around 1850, brought over from Europe. They were apparently purchased by the Brooklyn Institute from Liverpool, possibly to control an infestation of cankerworms or inchworms that were destroying the trees. They have since become somewhat of a nuisance bird, pushing native birds out of many nesting boxes. I personally don’t mind them and I’m excited whenever they choose one of our bird houses to call home.
House Sparrows are small birds, measuring about 6 inches (15 cm) long. Average life span is 3 years, with the longest recorded female Sparrow living 15 years. House Sparrows are brown and gray, with males sporting a black “bib”. Their diet consists mainly of seeds and insects; they are extremely common at backyard bird feeders. Because they have become so tame around humans, they are frequently seen at outdoor eateries nibbling on scraps of dropped bread, french fries and other baked goods.
House Sparrows will nest anywhere they can find a safe spot, from birdhouses to signs on buildings to traffic lights and more. The female typically lays 4-5 white to greenish-white eggs with brown and gray spots near the larger end. Both parents incubate the eggs and after 10-14 days they hatch. Both Mom and Dad take an active role in feeding the babies, providing a yummy diet of insects and small caterpillars. Fledglings leave the nest in about two weeks and the parents continue to feed them for 7-10 days. House Sparrows generally have 2-3 broods per year and are seen year round, as they do not migrate.
We currently have fourteen birdhouses on our property and six of them are filled with House Sparrow families. I thoroughly enjoy watching them not only raise their families but choosing their home and building their nests. I’ve had quite a few opportunities this year to watch the parents feed their babies both while in the birdhouse and after they have fledged. House Sparrows are very attentive parents and I’m looking forward to the next brood.
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