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The House Sparrow - A Songbird Pest

article and photos by Charly Mann

While the United States defeated Britain in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, England got her revenge in the spring of 1852 when 100 House Sparrows brought over from England were released along the East River in New York City. Now 150 years later they are one of the most abundant birds in the United States with a population estimated to be over 200 million. Their exponentially expanding population has caused steep declines in other cavity-nesting birds such as the Eastern Bluebird, Purple Martin, and several types of swallows.

House Sparrow on a branch
Close-up of one of more than 40 House Sparrows that live in and around my house

House Sparrows are not really sparrows, but are Old World Weaver Finches. Until about 75 years ago they were called the English Sparrow in the United States.

Female House Sparrow
This is a female House Sparrow

The House Sparrow is a small songbird measuring about 6 inches in length. It has short legs and a thick bill. Their backs are brown with black streaks. Its head is chestnut brown all the way to its eyes, and the chest and belly are grayish white. Males have white cheeks and a black bib, while females have a pale straw colored stripe behind their eyes, and do not have the white cheek and black bib.

House Sparrows are common almost anywhere humans place their homes or businesses much like the European Starling, which is also not a native species.

Male House Sparrow close-up
This is a detailed view of a male House Sparrow

By 1883 states and cities throughout the United States began declaring the House Sparrow a nuisance and offered bounties for their killing. These birds were originally imported because it was believed they would destroy insect pests, but as they multiplied it was soon discovered that insects were not a prime component on their diet. What they did do was drive away and reduce the populations of many species of native songbirds.

The House Sparrow's eggs hatch in only 11 days, and new born are independent within three weeks of birth. This is at least 30% faster than most similar sized birds. They can begin breeding within four months, and the average female produces 20 offspring a year. This means that just one pair of House Sparrows can be responsible for a population increase of 1,250 birds in 5 years. They also have a long lifespan which can exceed 13 years, though 4 years is more typical.

Juvenille House Sparrow
This is a 12 day old House Sparrow on its first trip out of the nest

House Sparrows are very adaptable in their diet. They love seed in bird feeders, grains, human food waste, as well as insects and spiders.

House Sparrows make their nests in rafters, gutters, ledges, eaves, attic vents, dryer vents, behind shake siding, behind or above pipes and ductwork on buildings, in evergreens and shrubs, and nests of cliff swallows and orioles. Unlike bluebirds and swallows, they will nest in close proximity to eachother.



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vipin      5:12 AM Thu 10/10/2013

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Sara      5:08 PM Mon 9/30/2013

Leave the eggs in the nest also I think it's totally wrong to kill house sparrows just because they didn't come from here it's not their fault they have feelings too also I heard they're declining in Europe if we kill them they go extinct but it's still wrong to kill them even if they don't also there's so many we can't really affect their population here so we're killing them for nothing

jesse      2:01 PM Mon 7/22/2013

i found two eggs what to do?

Charly Mann      9:18 AM Wed 6/12/2013

The United States did win the War of 1812. The facts are a large British Army was destroyed at the Battle of New Orleans, the US recovered its land the British had seized, the US gained decisive control over much of the Great Lakes, and the US even made some territorial gains, not to mention that the natives were no longer in a position to threaten the country anymore.


Chad      4:08 PM Tue 6/11/2013

The United states didn't defeat Britain in 1812

Dave Anderson      9:29 AM Thu 12/6/2012

The United States did not defeat Britain in the War of 1812.

Uplifting Visions
a guide to happiness, good health, and success
Charly Mann in a Hawaiian shirt
by Charly Mann

From the age of seven I have been enchanted with the idea of living happily ever after, and have made it a life quest to find that answer. I have spoken to hundreds of people – usually older and wiser than me, and read countless books and articles on the subject. In my website Uplifting Visions I share what I consider the best insights I have learned about achieving happiness in life.

Oklahoma Birds Listed by Color

House Finch - male (carpodacus mexicanus)
Purple Finch - male (carpodacus purpureus)
Northern Cardinal - male (cardinalis cardinalis)
Painted Bunting - male (passerina ciris)
Summer Tanager - male (piranga rubra)

Baltimore Oriole - male (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - male (icterus spurius)

Yellow Warbler (dendroica petechia )
Baltimore Oriole - female (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - female (icterus spurius)
Summer Tanager - female (piranga rubra)
Yellow Goldfinch - male (carduelis tristis)
Western Kingbird (tyrannus verticalis)
Eastern Meadowlark (sturnella magna)

Malard - male (anas platyrhynchos)
Dark-eyed Junco - female (junco hyemalis)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (archilochus colubris)
Painted Bunting - female (passerina ciris)
Green Heron (butorides virescens)

Barn Swallow (hirundo rustica)
Belted Kingfisher (ceryle alcyon)
Blue Jay (cyanocitta cristata)
Blue Grosbeak - male (guiraca caerulea)
Eastern Bluebird (sailia sialis)
Indigo Bunting - male (passerina cyanea)
Purple Martin - male (progne subis)

Great Blue Heron (ardea herodias)
Carolina Chickadee (poecile carolinensis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (sitta canadensis)
Grey Catbird (dumetella carolinensis)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (regulus calendula)
Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher (tyrannus forficatus)
White-breasted Nuthatch (sitta carolinensis)
Tufted Titmouse (baelophus bicolor)
American Robin (turdus migratorius)
Northern Mockingbird (mimus polyglottos)
Mississippi Kite (ictinia mississippiensis)
Dickcissel (spiza americana)

American Crow (corvus brachyrhynchos)
Brown-headed Cowbird - male (molothrus ater)
European Starling (sturnus vulgaris)
Common Grackle (quiscalus quiscula)
Red-winged Blackbird - male (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Towhee (pipilo maculatus)
Turkey Vulture (cathartes aura)

Black & White
American Bald Eagle (haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Black-billed Magpie (pica hudsonia)
Downey Woodpecker (picoides pubescens)
Red-Bellied Woodpecker (melanerpes carolinus)
Purple Martin - female (progne subis)
Eastern Kingbird (tyrannus tyrannus)
Dark-eyed Junco - male (junco hyemalis)
Loggerhead Shrike (lanius ludovicianus)

American Kestrel (falco sparverius)
Blue Grosbeak - female (guiraca caerulea)
Brown-headed Cowbird - female (molothrus ater)
Brown Thrasher (toxostoma rufum)
Common Nighthawk (chordeiles minor)
Carolina Wren (thryothorus ludovicianus)
Cedar Waxwing (bombycilla cedrorum)
Greater Roadrunner (geococcyx californianus)
Killdeer (charadrius vociferus)
Northern Bobwhite (colinus virginianus)
Red-tailed Hawk (buteo jamaicensis)
Cliff Swallow (petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
Horned Lark (eremophila alpestris)
House Finch - female (carpodacus mexicanus)
Northern Flicker (colaptes auratus)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (coccyzus americanus)
Mourning Dove (zenaida macroura)
Malard - female (anas platyrhynchos)
Purple Finch - female (carpodacus purpureus)
House Sparrow (passer domesticus)
Indigo Bunting - female (passerina cyanea)
Red-winged Blackbird - female (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Sandpiper (actitis macularia)
Upland Sandpiper (bartramia longicauda)
Northern Cardinal - female (cardinalis cardinalis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Yellow Goldfinch - female (carduelis tristis)
Canada Goose (branta canadensis)

Wild Birds of Northeast OK

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