Sparrows thrive around the world

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The bird I show here claims a distinction no other bird can match. It is a member of the most widely distributed species of bird on Earth, the house sparrow. This one is a male.

It originated in the Middle East and has been introduced by man to most of the world's continents. This little bird is tenacious. At only about six inches long as an adult, it thrives almost anywhere man has taken it except for deep forests, dense jungles and the cold arctic tundra.

Most Americans know this bird as the English sparrow. This title comes from the fact that several of both sexes were purposely brought by ship across the Atlantic Ocean from England in 1852 and freed in Brooklyn, N.Y., where they thrived. But this bird did not originate in England and therefore shouldn't be referred to as the English sparrow; it is a house sparrow. It got the name because of its habit of nesting in the gutters, eaves and attics of houses and inside other buildings.

House sparrows can quickly overpopulate an area, become the dominant bird and consequently become a nuisance. These birds eat seeds and farm grain as well as insects. Although known as the most familiar wild animal by many people across the world, the house sparrow is listed as an endangered species in the Netherlands.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the O'Tenem Gallery.

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