A lot of people hate sparrows, or at least many ignore them. Small, insignificant birds, scourges related to the introduced and reviled Old World creature, the house sparrow (Passer domesticus).
And when most look at a sparrow, that’s all they see: something to be treated with nonchalance, something pedestrian and common. Or worse, something repulsive because a group of fools let it loose upon North America in hope of bringing the birds of Shakespeare to the New World.
Not that house sparrows are evil, mind you, for they’re not; they’re simply doing what nature made them to do. You can’t blame the species—or any other species for that matter—simply because humans unleashed them in non-native habitats. If that’s you and you’re looking at someone to blame for what house sparrows do, you need only look in a mirror for the right target.
Yet all the disgust aimed at house sparrows too often blinds people to the native species that bring a great deal more to the table than a fit of misguided anger.
Who would notice a white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) foraging beneath a canopy of cloud, trees and brush? A little bird, sure. Why bother with such a common creature? After all, it looks like every other sparrow, so there’s no need to stop and appreciate its beauty.
Or what of the Lincoln’s sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) perched at the edge of a forest, crest raised and eyes watchful? It’s nothing more than a shadowy figure always flitting about in thickets and woodlands, always nothing more than a fleeting glance of something wistful. And since it looks like every other sparrow…
A field sparrow (Spizella pusilla) atop a withered reed at the lake’s edge must be nothing more extraordinary than a female house sparrow. The size and color of its beak means little to the common observer. But for the rest of it, what minor differences exist represent variations on a theme instead of beauty.
My observations show a song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) perched on a reed is no more noteworthy than an ant climbing a distant hill. To me, it’s as though these feathered wonders are invisible, cloaked by the bending of space that renders them unseen and unheard. But what a song they sing! And too bad for those who fail to notice.
Just one of many Savannah sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis) perching in lakeside brush commands little interest from those who pass by. Tiny to the point of being inconspicuous, these varied and diverse fowl escape the notice of all but the interested. And who would be interested in sparrows? Few, I can tell you that.