In praise of sparrows

House Sparrow, Toab

very little was known about it in detail and it had rather a poor reputation – barely considered as a bird by most birdwatchers.
one thing about the bird began to fascinate me more and more. This was its success as an animal. The sparrow certainly owes its success to its association with man… (Summers-Smith 1992, ‘In Search of Sparrows’)

My BBS square at Toab, Shetland, hosts over 20 pairs of House Sparrows, and they can still be found without difficulty around older buildings in Rutland. In many parts of Britain, however, they are certainly in decline and there are signs that their successful association with man is threatened by modern building practices as well as ‘more efficient’ farming methods.

If we allow sparrows to slip away, we shall lose not just their beauty, their gregarious character, and their intriguing biology. We shall lose also part of or own psyche, from the passer of Catullus’ Lesbia poems to Shakespeare’s There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow. We owe it to the birds, and to ourselves, to take more care.

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