Discover Nature NotesMore posts

The Sparrow Saga

Dec 14, 2015

Even in the dead of winter, things can get pretty lively around a bird feeder. It’s a meeting place for cardinals, blue jays, nuthatches and those “little brown birds”… the sparrow.

Sparrows are basically brown, but different kinds of sparrows have rather colorful markings. For instance, the white-throated sparrow sports yellow eyebrows. A close relative, the white-crowned sparrow, shows off what appears to be a white mohawk haircut. A reddish cap with a small black spot adorns the breast of the American tree sparrow.

The bird we most often refer to as a sparrow is the house, or English sparrow. House sparrows came from Europe more than 100 years ago, and have thrived on farms and in urban areas.

Sparrows are easily attracted to your backyard. And they even eat cheap! Sparrows actually prefer the lower-priced bird seed. White millet spread on the ground, close to a shrub or bush, is perfect! It’s sure to welcome in those “little brown birds,” bringing activity to your bird feeder and life to the dead of winter!

The House Sparrow Life

  • The house sparrow or “English sparrow” is not a true American sparrow; rather, it is an Old World sparrow that is more closely related to species in Europe, Asia and Africa.
  • To the delight of nostalgic immigrants, house sparrows were introduced to America in the 1800s in hopes they would help control insect pests. But house sparrows don’t feed much on insects, however, and quickly became a pest, especially to farmers.
  • House sparrows eat grains, fruits, insects, bread crumbs and more. They are overabundant in rural regions and around livestock feed lots from coast to coast.
  • Along with European starlings, house sparrows compete with many native birds (bluebirds and woodpeckers, for example) for nesting cavities and vest boxes.

Learn more about all sparrow species in the MDC Field Guide.

Recent Posts

Longear Sunfish

The Color of Fish

May 26, 2020

Fish use color for blending into their surroundings, selecting mates, and self-defense. They can also change their colors and patterns by mood. Learn more about the how fish use color in this week's Discover Nature Note.
 

Gray Tree Frog Calling

Amphibian Noisemakers

May 17, 2020

Discover the sounds and skills of Acris crepitans and Hyla versicolor, more commonly known as cricket frogs and gray tree frogs. They perform an outdoor suite while munching on pesky insects that are not so sweet. Learn more in this week's Discover Nature Note.
 

Backyard naturescape

Landscaping for Wildlilfe

May 11, 2020

Liven up your backyard for some wild company. You can create a mix that invites birds, butterflies, turtles, and other animals to your outdoor space. Learn some landscaping tips to add song and life to your outdoor space in this week's Discover Nature Note.

Field Guide

Discovering nature from A-Z is one click away

Recipes

You had fun hunting, catching or gathering your quarry—now have more fun cooking and eating it.
Check out the recipes