The house sparrow

David Chapman

The writer and photographer, David Chapman introduces this wonderfully sociable, if scruffy, house guest.

Passer Domesticus, literally sparrow of the house, has a closer association with humans than any other British bird; it is also a bird with great character and charm.

The house sparrow depends upon us for somewhere to build its scruffy nest. Nesting in loose colonies, the house sparrow likes to live in our attic spaces finding access through holes under the eaves.

You might think that being colonial would mean the house sparrow was always a friendly bird. Alas no, male house sparrows regularly break into fights with their neighbours and this can be quite entertaining since they never really amount to anything serious.

It is likely that the males are fighting over females. This may have led to the misconception that they are extremely promiscuous birds but recent research has shown that they are no more so than us humans; make of that what you will!

In all of their habits house sparrows are basically sociable. If we have a dry spell, watch out for them dust-bathing; they like to make small pits in an area of dusty ground to flap around throwing the soil all over their backs, it is thought that this helps them to remove parasites. 

If there isn’t any dust to bathe in, then there is a good chance that a group of house sparrows will be found in the garden pond splashing around in the shallows.

In September our house sparrows will be moulting and it is only through the abrasion of their feathers over the autumn and winter that we will once again see the glorious plumage of the male bird. The size of his black bib is a measure of his appeal to the females and what a beautiful bird he is!

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