Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Tree sparrows

I hadn't knowingly seen a tree sparrow Passer montanus until nine years ago, when we had one as a garden visitor. More recently their numbers seem to have been increasing in the North East, after decades of decline, and they have bred in a nest box in the garden every year for the last three years. They are beautifully marked little birds, with their chestnut crown, black-spotted white cheeks and mottled wing plumage.

 We now have a small flock of about a dozen that congregate in an old weeping pear tree and they have become the dominant finches on the bird feeders in winter.

They are notably assertive birds and will regularly see off the house sparrows, whose numbers seem to be declining here. 

Tree sparrows have a fierce, almost brutal countenance when viewed head-on, and some interesting research has been carried out in house sparrows on the significance of that black bib under the beak. It's known as the badge, and the larger the badge, the higher the individual is in the pecking order and the more likely it is to secure a mate.

Conflict always ensues whenever tree and house sparrows share the same suet ball feeder - and the tree sparrows invariably dominate. 

Click here for an audio file of their song

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