🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

An amazing morning with the House Sparrows

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Huismossie [Afrikaans]

This morning I was fascinated by one of our most common little brown jobbies - two House Sparrows. There were a lot of birds busy in the garden - the Laughing Doves, the Weavers, the Bulbuls, two Glossy Starlings and lots and lots of sparrows.

But what caught my eye was a pair that stuck together wherever they went in the garden. I first noticed them on the bird feeder, standing their ground against the Robin who was feeding on an apple. Then the male darted up on a branch, followed by the female. He flitted to another tree and she followed. Then he flew down to a sign-board I have in the garden and where I had thrown some seeds on the ground. He uttered a few words and the female stayed put up in the tree. He glanced from side to side, like we do when wanting to cross the road, first right, then left, then right again. He uttered another few chirps and the female joined him on the sign-board. Together they surveyed the scenery for a while before flitting down to the ground and feeding on the seeds. I couldn't get any pictures of that, they were hidden behind the foliage.

 Looking right

Looking at me

Looking left

Looking right again

The female joins the male after he calls her
After a while they both flew to a bird bath where some Laughing Doves were thinking about having a bath and without further ado they hijacked the bowl, had a good splash around and then flew up into a tree and sat together, preening, in contented silence. 

Laughing Doves contemplating a bath

The female sparrow on the left hijacking the Laughing Dove's bath while he looks on in astonishment

The female sparrow drying off

The male sparrow taking his turn with the Laughing Dove still looking on

The female is back in the water again!

Finally she's had enough and she flew onto a branch just above the male.

Next the Bulbuls arrived and once again the timid Laughing Doves had to wait their turn.

Then at last the Laughing Doves had the bath all to themselves.

We so often over-look these Sparrows, one of the most widespread birds in the world, who originated from Eurasia and was introduced to Australasia, the Americas and Africa, specifically along the Nile River and separately from southern DRC through Zambia and Angola to southern Africa. It is often considered an invasive species, ironically, however, its population is experiencing serious decline in many of its native regions. Despite its abundance here in South Africa, it seems to have a minor impact on indigenous birds, although it may have displaced Cape wagtails from urban areas, as they are both adept at scavenging in these environments.

It generally prefers urban, rural and suburban areas and are very rarely absent from human habitation. Being so used to humans has made house sparrows resourceful in finding unique food supplies. They have been seen inspecting car grills for insects, and will feed on farms searching for spilled seed and grain.

It eats a variety of different food, including seeds, nectar, fruit and invertebrates, using a wide range of foraging techniques. It most commonly plucks food items from the ground, but it may glean insects from foliage or hawk small prey aerially. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:
    •    Plants
    ◦    seeds
    ◦    nectar of Aloe marlothii (Mountain aloe)
    ◦    flowers of Sideroxylon inerme (White milkwood)

    •    Invertebrates
    ◦    katydids and grasshoppers (Orthoptera)
    ◦    aphids
    ◦    termite alates
    ◦    eggs of Helix adspersa (Garden snail)

House sparrows are monogamous with a life-long pair bond and will build bulky nests in roof crevices, nesting boxes and natural tree cavities, or they may chase other birds out of nests. The female will incubate a brood of 4-6 eggs for 14-18 days, then both parents will regurgitate food for the nestlings for 14-18 days until they leave the nest. Depending on the climate, pairs may raise 2-3 broods per year.



  1. I enjoyed reading this lovely story! Very interesting that the laughing doves "obey" the sparrows, it doesn't happen here!!

    1. Thank you Liz! Aaaaw, my Laughing Doves are such timid little chaps, they always have to wait till last for anything!



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