House sparrow

House sparrow (Passer domesticus).

According to Birds of New Jersey, the house sparrow, which is not a sparrow but a member of the Weaver Finch family, was introduced from Europe to Central Park in 1850. Must be another one of those situations with Shakespeare lovers.

Audubon.org categorizes the house sparrow as an Old World Sparrow, as do Kaufman and National Geographic field guides.

House sparrows are not found in the wild, being strictly a city bird–or suburban, or farm–wherever humans are found..

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Breeding males have black bibs and white wing bars. The male house sparrow in the photo above is just starting to develop his black bib. He is accompanied at the feeder by the ubiquitous European starling. These photos were taken in January, when there was no snow. Now, in February, with snow and extreme cold, both the starlings and the house sparrows are gone. Birds of New Jersey explains that house sparrows are nonmigratory but move around to find food. This is probably true of both species. I’m sure they’ll be back.

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Females are smaller, have buff-colored eyebrows, streaked backs, and non-streaked breasts. The photo above, once again with the starling, clearly shows the female’s buff-colored eyebrow.  The photo below shows a flock of 5 house sparrows feeding together.

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House sparrows are aggressive birds who will kill the young of other birds to take over a tree cavity or nest box. They seem quite congenial in the following photos, but it’s not breeding season, which makes all the difference. Below, a male house sparrow is hanging out with a male and female house finch. See how the female house finch doesn’t have the buff eyebrow of the female house sparrow, but does have a streaked breast.

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Below a female house sparrow is sharing the feeder with a red-bellied woodpecker and, oh yeah, the starling. Go away, starling. Poor old woodpecker, he must not know what mean company he’s keeping. Or maybe birds don’t hold grudges. As little anthropomorphism as possible. I must try to remember that.

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