English Sparrows

a1English or House sparrows are flying varmints usually found in large flocks.  They are an introduced species, not native to North America.  The sparrows have made themselves right at home.  We must have two dozen of the things plaguing our bird feeders this year.  They’ve never been around in such numbers before.

The birds are little better than flying rats. They consume huge amounts of food and put bird droppings over everything. At night they like to bunk down in the barn, leaving a coating of bird mess behind. When they aren’t raiding the feeders in large gangs, they steal from the chickens, flying right into the coops to take feed.

a2

A couple English sparrows share with the mourning doves

This year we are going through more wild bird food than ever.  We put out about fifteen dollars worth of food each week.  I try to get the best savings by purchasing black oil sunflower seeds and safflower seeds in bulk then combining those seeds with the whole oat/cracked corn mix I give the chickens as scratch.  Most wild birds will take the black oil sunflower seeds, cardinals like safflowers seeds, mourning doves eat oats and corn. English sparrows eat everything, very messily.  They throw a good majority of the food directly on the ground.  If other birds don’t pick it up quickly it is lost under the snow.

I would very much like to ping these pesky sparrows with a pellet pistol or trap them with nets.  My husband says no, he can’t bear the thought of eradicating the poor little things.  I explained they are nearly doubling the cost of feeding the wild birds, but that isn’t convincing enough.  Since he’s paying for most of the bird food, I guess the sparrows get to stay.a3

By summer we will likely have fifty or so to contend with.  At that point they will begin to steal chick food, fouling as they go, and I will get rid of the flying pests.  The biggest concern for me is the sparrows introducing salmonella into the feed.  Salmonella is carried by chickens with little adverse effect.  When humans are exposed via raw meat and eggs, salmonella does its damage.

These little feathered devils can make big messes.  They are especially troublesome at one of my local feed supply stores.  The store has a very large warehouse with wide bay doors that are kept open during the day. English sparrows call the warehouse home.  There are several dozen in residence.  Enough grain spills to keep them well fed.  Often a worker will load a bag of grain in my car that is soiled with bird droppings.  It’s gotten so bad the store has started playing a tape of predatory bird calls to try to frighten the sparrows away.  I can’t see that it’s working very well.

My mother, who lives in England, says English sparrows are in decline there.  How I wish I could net several thousand of the nasty things and ship them to her.  They are thriving in their adopted land.

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6 thoughts on “English Sparrows

  1. Ha ha ha! I love it and understand and please don’t take anything that I say the wrong way 🙂 They are greedy little beggars here too. I am English like a Sparrow. In the early summer they were emptying a standard seed feeder every four hours, I timed them, start to finish. They were feeding their young and although the text books say that they prefer to feed live food to their chicks ours got porridge, porridge and more porridge. They are in decline in the cities and have disappeared from some altogether but they are making a comeback in more rural locations. On invasive species, I think that it is important to remember that quite often we are not native but an invasive species ourselves and we brought most of the problems with us. We are directly responsible. (Did you think that they flew there?) Nearly always the traffic is one way, Europe to the Colonies but hey, I live with the American Grey Squirrel, I love it and am much too intelligent and knowledgeable to believe any of the things that they say about it. I get it and I agree that Sparrows can be a pest but I think that it just comes down to how you feel about wildlife. I love nature.

    • Yes, the English or House Sparrow was introduced to the US on several different occasions by well-meaning but very ignorant people. Most of our invasive species were well-meant introductions not properly thought out: Japanese barberry shrubs, burning bush, Morrow’s honeysuckle, starlings, crown vetch, etc, etc. Also humans have introduced too many disastrous species like Asian fruit flies, Dutch Elm Disease and Chestnut Blight to America. Millions and millions of beautiful trees lost. Yet, the earthworm was also an introduced species, hitching a ride to America in the ballast of European ships. It quickly spread across the whole continent. I can’t imagine life without earthworms, they seem such an important part of the ecology.
      Other birds at my feeders seem discouraged by the English sparrows. The cardinals hang back. I’m sure it it gets really cold, the cardinals won’t be so shy about eating. The sparrows even eat the suet. When they are on the feeder, the woodpeckers wait their turn. I think the sheer numbers in the flock are daunting to the other birds.
      Gray squirrels are bullies, pushing away red squirrels and bothering birds. The great thing about them is they are big enough to eat and can help feed a hungry family.
      I love nature more than the average person and believe that nature has a way of outlasting feeble humans. Earth will still be here long after we have caused ourselves to go extinct.
      It always helps me to remember that N. America and Europe were once joined, with Maine snug up against Ireland and Scotland. The species were once all shared, probably why we still have similar trees and other wild plants.

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