Animal stories: Sparrows

Sparrows are a social bird seen mostly in cities and farm areas. They are medium-sized brown birds with short tails and powerful beaks. They are about 5-6 inches in length. Male sparrows can be distinguished from other common sparrows by their black throat and upper breast and ash grey crown. Males have chestnut-coloured feathers on the upper wings.

Females and young sparrows are difficult to differentiate. They all have a plain, dingy-grey breast, a distinct buffy eye stripe and a streaked back.

Sparrows are a frequent dust bather. They throw soil and dust over its body feathers like bathing with water. They are not a water bird but they can swim well enough to save themselves.

Favourite food

Sparrows mostly eat plant materials like grain, fruit and seeds. They also feed on insects, earthworms and other animal matter. Their diet also includes young seedlings, buds and flowers. In urban areas, they almost depend on humans for food and nesting.

Their homes

Sparrows live in nearly every habitat except dense forest, alpine and desert environments. They are mostly found in urban and farm areas. Sparrows live closely to one another. They fly and feed in small flocks. Wherever people build, sparrows sooner or later come to share their homes. They build their nests on almost any elevated places. Their nests are built haphazardly with any easily obtained materials.

Young ones

Their common breeding season is from March through August. Females lay from three to eight eggs in the nest. It takes about two weeks for eggs to hatch. New born sparrows stay in the nest for about 15 days. Both the parents feed and take care of their young ones. Young sparrows may still be fed by their parents for another two weeks even after leaving the nest. Sparrows have the life span of about five years. Mortality is highest during the first year of life.

Singer sparrow

Song sparrows are one of those birds that often go unnoticed by many people. These types of sparrows can be identified by their streaked chest that has large dark brown dot in the centre. Song sparrows also show a chocolate coloured triangle on each side of their neck. The Song sparrow is the most common sparrow and can be seen in grassy habitats. They are found mostly in areas where lots of shrubs and bushes are available easily such as cities, towns and roadsides.

In the first week of February, especially on sunny days, they begin to sing. During the warmest part of the day or early in the morning, their songs are short and quiet. As the day becomes longer, they sing louder and more frequently. By the end of February the Song sparrow can be heard clearly in full song and continues to sing until September or October. — Compiled by Merina Pradhan