About us: We own a wild bird feeding supply 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.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Adult sparrows feeding each other

I have often observed grown sparrows feeding other seemingly grown sparrows, usually a male feeding a female. Is this common, what's this all about? Thank you, I am new to your site and think it is great, especially for anyone new to birding! 

Bird courtship displays are integral to mating and raising young. Female birds often choose suitors based on appearance, the ability to provide food, evidence that the male can build the strongest and safest nest and other characteristics.

With some species, the male simply flies in front of the female to show off his luminous colors or unique markings. And some birds touch bills or groom each other during courtship.

And many birds like the jays, cardinals and sparrows engage in courtship feeding behavior. Typically a male bird may bring a morsel to the female, demonstrating that he is able not only to find food, but that he can share it and provide for her while she incubates eggs or tends the brood.

For some species the male may just bring food and transfer it to the female for her to feed, while in other species he will place a seed or insect directly in her mouth just as he might be expected to do when helping feed hungry nestlings.

Along with being lovers, if you continue to watch, you’ll notice that many battles break out between males. Two House Sparrows in a seemingly endless wrestling match is not uncommon. It’s usually a bloodless battle that ends when they are distracted or one bird taps out.

Male House Sparrows have a patch of black feathers at the throat and chest called a "bib" or a "badge". This patch of feathers increases in size with age. Usually a large, dark bib signals a higher social status that will have the younger setting up challenges.

And I always know when a nest of baby House Sparrows are about to fledge when there is a large gathering of sparrows in the morning cheering the little ones out of the nest to nearby bushes. It’s like all the sparrow clan gathers and chants “jump, jump, jump” and then sing happy songs when they fly successfully from the nest.

From dancing, to eating, to nest building, to singing, birds have many rituals. Thank you for sharing the unique behaviors you noticed in your own yard!

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Anonymous said...

Love your site! I have noticed these courting habits with my local blue jays. It's a joy to watch them interact.

Carpe8dm said...

My mornings are spent near my feeders as I have done for many years, today was the first apparent "courtship feeding " I've ever seen! Thanks for your interesting and informative article!

Unknown said...

Within the last week I have seen a male cardinal feed a female and a male bluebird feed a female. Both sitting at an open feeder with mealworms. Such fun to watch!