About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Has your family lived in America longer than the House Sparrows?

Working at Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing, MI I hear dismissive complaints about House Sparrows every day like: "How do I feed the birds but not the sparrows; How do I keep the sparrow from nesting in my birdhouse; the sparrows are eating me out of house and home, sparrows are killing all our native songbirds..."

I see House Sparrows as survivors trying to live the American Dream. They have learned to thrive in close association with mankind, unlike the many other species that have declined or disappeared as a result of our activities. In fact, people have done the most destruction to native bird species and helped increase the house sparrow population both intentionally and unintentionally.

Between 1874 and 1876 a few House Sparrows were brought over from England and were released in Jackson and Owosso, Michigan to control insect infestations on crops. They quickly multiplied into thousands as they regularly raised three to five broods per year, each brood averaging around five babies.

Then it was discovered that 60% of the House Sparrows' diet consisted of the farmers’ seed crop instead of the bugs. However the information came too late to stop the population growth. Today due to several releases of a few House Sparrows across the US they are the most abundant songbirds in North America and the most widely distributed birds on the planet. And the House Sparrows in your yard may be 100th generation Americans.

So, love them...or hate them...they are here to stay. Our challenge is to learn to live with them as well as they have learned to live with us by mitigating their impact on our native species, while fully understanding the niche they now occupy in our avian landscape.

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