Aug 16 2008
If you think you’re seeing a lot of house sparrows lately, you’re right. The breeding season has doubled or tripled their population and that’s no wonder. They raise up to four broods per year.
This week I saw a flock of 40 house sparrows grazing the seed heads in the lawn at Schenley Plaza. The grass seed kept them away from the picnic area where they’ve become quite bold. Witness the little guy pictured here.
I was eating a snack at one of the outdoor tables when this male house sparrow showed up. He perched in various locations and looked at my cookie, then at me.
“You own that cookie and you can give it to me. I only want a little. Cheep!” I did nothing, but I got ready to take his picture.
He could tell he had my attention but I was a tough customer. “Cheep! How about a crumb?” He perched on the back of the chair, looked me in the eye and slowly yawned his beak. “Put it in my mouth,” he said and hopped to the table top.
Still no handout, but this activity attracted his friends and relatives. Young house sparrows approached to learn the finer points of begging, the importance of eye contact, the emphatic “Cheep,” the art of staying just out of reach but within crumb-toss range.
It was a good show but I know too much to be fooled. House sparrows are an invasive species here. Feeding them only makes them more successful, a counter-productive result.
I didn’t give them my cookie, but I do enjoy watching them.
(photo by Kate St. John)