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March 24, 2012 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: World Sparrow Day

March 20th was World Sparrow Day. The house sparrow, one of the most common birds in the world, is now in decline, possibly due to the degradation of the environment. I had read about this last year, but I still see plenty of sparrows in Chicago. However, that is not the case in other parts of the world.

So today I will spotlight the house sparrow. There were a lot of them on Navy Pier last week. While I was taking photos of the Ring-billed Gull this little female sparrow landed on the chain fence very close to me as if to say ‘what about me, take my photo too’.

The House Sparrow is one of the first birds many of us learn to identify. They are cheerful little birds and are often seen hopping around the city streets, backyards and parks, chirping away. They don’t mind people and are called “house” sparrow because they will nest on homes and public buildings.

House Sparrows aren’t related to other North American sparrows. They are chunkier, fuller in the chest, with a larger, rounded head, shorter tail, and stouter bill. They are native to Britain and were introduced into Brooklyn, New York, in 1851. By 1900 they had spread to the Rocky Mountains. They are clever, adaptable little birds and will often out-compete native North American species for nesting sites which does not endear them to some birders.

The male can be distinguished from the female most prominently by the black bib on his throat and the gray cap on his head. They don’t change plumage during breeding season and stay the same brown colors.

House Sparrows in flocks have a pecking order. Males with larger patches of black on their throats tend to be older and dominant over males with less black.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.



Leave a Comment
  1. Cipriano / Mar 24 2012 2:59 am

    What a cute little sparrow.
    I hope she never decided to LICK that chain with her tongue… looks like she may have got stuck on to it.


  2. Cathy / Mar 24 2012 3:31 am

    Sparrows provide some of the best free entertainment going. I never tire of watching them.


    • Leslie / Mar 24 2012 8:52 am

      I have a small group of them that come to the feeders and they are absolutely entertaining. I didn’t think sparrows went to peanut feeders as they are designed for woodpeckers to cling to. Recently two of the sparrows learned how to hang upside down like a nuthatch and peck at the nuts. It was too funny.


  3. Louise / Mar 24 2012 6:08 am

    Oh wow. What an amazing post. I have never heard about World Sparrow Day, and learnt so much from your post. It never occurred to me that they could possibly be endangered. They seem so common. Here in Australia at least, although of course they are an introduced species here too, as they are in America. I checked on wiki for the natural range- they are astonishingly widespread, which makes you think that they must be quite adaptable, I wonder why the populations are changing in India? I’ve always loved sparrows, I think that they were indeed likely one of the first birds I knew- I remember having a sparrow jigsaw puzzle when I was a kid. I’ve never bothered to photograph sparrows- perhaps I should?


    • Leslie / Mar 24 2012 8:48 am

      I rarely photograph them either. She got in between me and the gull I was looking at, he was on the ledge to the left, so I took a few quick shots of her since she was sitting still and posing. I had to go back in my archives 2 years to find the second photo of the male and the female together.


  4. Libby / Mar 24 2012 6:41 am

    I didn’t know sparrows were declining 😦 I have been doing the Nature Notes meme over at on Wednesdays and I have learned that monarch butterflies and frogs are also declining in a big way – it is really alarming. Glad you are helping get the word out!


    • Leslie / Mar 24 2012 5:41 pm

      I know about the Monarchs and bees are having problems too but I didn’t know about the frogs. I’ll have to check out the Nature Notes meme.


  5. Trish / Mar 24 2012 7:13 am

    What sweet little things they are! Quite amazing to see the one on the chain out in the open like that. I’m more used to seeing them in the bushes taking cover.


    • Leslie / Mar 24 2012 8:58 am

      This was in a tourist area of Navy Pier and these sparrows were used to the crowds. This one was gazing out at the people, probably watching for someone to drop some food.


  6. storygal / Mar 24 2012 7:48 am

    I learn a lot about birds from you. Thanks for the lesson each time as well as marvellous photos. We have the house sparrow in Ontario.


  7. BermudaOnion / Mar 24 2012 7:57 am

    What a beauty and what a gorgeous photo!


  8. laurelrainsnow / Mar 24 2012 9:46 am

    Beautiful shots! The contrast between the bird on the chain and one on the tree is intriguing. Thanks for sharing…and here’s MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOT


  9. Suko / Mar 24 2012 9:49 am

    What beautiful photos, Leslie!


  10. mostraum / Mar 24 2012 10:00 am

    Wonderful pictures again.
    They are such endearing little birds, I love having them around.


  11. cherylmahoney / Mar 24 2012 11:53 am

    This reminds me of a story I heard somewhere–a father was telling his son about his favorite rare birds. The son said his favorite bird was the sparrow. The father pointed out that he could see those all the time, and the son said–exactly!

    I hope it will STAY true that we can see them all the time. There’s a flock that flutters around outside my window, and I always love watching them.


    • Leslie / Mar 24 2012 11:56 am

      I call the sparrows my little buddies because I can always count on them to show up at the feeder every day. They never disappoint.


  12. Alyce (@AtHomeWithBooks) / Mar 24 2012 12:07 pm

    They are so pretty! We do see sparrows around here too.


  13. dyane / Mar 24 2012 12:13 pm

    Thanks I didn’t know there was a world sparrow day 🙂


  14. Nise' (Under the Boardwalk) / Mar 24 2012 12:55 pm

    Wonderful photos. I was trying to get a shot this week as the birds came to visit the melted water in our pool for a quick bath. They did not like me trying to capture their baths!


  15. Diane@BibliophileBytheSea / Mar 24 2012 1:58 pm

    We have an awful lot of sparrows around.


  16. Sheila (Book Journey) / Mar 24 2012 2:02 pm

    That second picture could be a Christmas card!


  17. Dragonflydaydreams / Mar 24 2012 9:46 pm

    Sparrows are considered to be an introduced pest in Australia, so I hadn’t heard that they were becoming scarce in their native Europe. I’m sure many Aussie gardeners and home owners would be happy to send them back!
    Your pics, though, have helped me feel more fondly towards sparrows 🙂



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