Readers’ wildlife photographs

August 17, 2014 • 4:10 am

I’m feeding birds as well as squirrels, and most of those birds turn out to be house sparrows (Passer domesticus). They’re skittish—far more so than the squirrels—so I have to hide a bit to watch them on the windowsill. And I think they’re gorgeous birds.  The males are clad in different shades of brown, and the females are small and cute.

Reader Diana MacPherson obviously agrees, and she sent me some photos and commentary on a pair of juvenile sparrows pestering their dad for food. Her captions are indented:

Some more baby birds have emerged & I photographed some of the baby House Sparrows  (or what I call English Sparrows – Passer domesticus) hanging around & also being fed by their dad. The last pictures are funny as only one baby gets fed & the one who doesn’t receive the seed is not impressed at all!

Two baby house sparrows huddling together on a chilly, rainy day.


A baby English Sparrow with her dad.


Baby English sparrow with dad [begging for noms]:


Baby English Sparrow being fed by dad while sibling is annoyed.


Baby that didn’t get the seed seems to say, “Hey, where’s MY seed?!”


Dad has had enough of these demanding babies!


22 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photographs

    1. I think they are mostly fluff. They are so fluffy their bums are like fluffy duck bums. They have errant feathers that tend to stick up on them too. The poor little things can fly but they aren’t as strong as their dad right now and when he flies to a higher surface, they really struggle to get up there.

    2. That’s true of a lot of fledglings. 🙂 As Diana mentions, much of it is the result of their baby down; they are in the process of molting in their next set of feathers, which will be sleeker looking.

  1. I’ve had a soft place in my heart for House Sparrows since I was small. A handsome male found a potential nest site up under our roof. He would sit at the edge of the roof and chirp and chirp. If I got up early before the rest of the family, I would sit in the dining room chirp in response to the bird’s chirping, engaging in what I considered a dialogue with him, though I’m sure he considered it a monologue.

    1. That’s a cute story. I think they are very cute birds. My dad emailed me these facts about House Sparrows:

      English Sparrows were depopulated as the use of horses disappeared from cities, their food source, that enabled them to have a high population, was the undigested seeds in horse manure!

      The Chinese under communist rule almost exterminated them in China, where they were also considered a pest.

  2. Ironic that they’re referred to here as “English sparrows”, as they’re now actually quite rare birds in much of their original home. When I was growing up in Liverpool in the 1960s there were flocks of sparrows everywhere. Nowadays you wouldn’t see a single one. Starlings, which also used to be common, have also virtually disappeared. I don’t know whether anyone has come up with a convincing explanation for these massive declines.

    1. We have similar problems in German cities. From what I’ve heard it’s mostly habitat loss.

      While adult sparrows eat mostly seeds, they feed insects to their young. In our clean cities it’s hard to find enough insects for the young ones to survive.

    2. That’s very interesting and unfortunate, since we still have lots of sparrows and starlings here in Ontario. Could it be loss of habitat/pesticides/climate change? I’ve read that some bird and mammalian species are venturing farther north to find food.

    1. I like photographing the common animals people don’t notice so much. I’m in a rural area but these are city animals as well.

  3. Great photos! I love the expressions on the dad’s face.

    The simple house sparrow is such an impressive creature. It seems to thrive just about anywhere. I’m always amazed when I travel hours by plane and step off only to find these unassuming things living as naturally as they do in my home city. Their range spans nearly the entire globe, and they colonized the North American continent in about 100 years only.

    Also, these guys have let us watch evolution happening in real (human) time. The house sparrows here in BC are quite dark, but their cousins in the American southwest are pale like the rock and the sand there. This divergence occurred only within the last 60 or so years I believe.

    Amazing little birds!

  4. I think young passerine birds (among others) always strike us as odd because they still act like babies despite being as big as their parents. They grow to adult size very quickly so as to be able to get out of the nest, but they aren’t at all ready to fend for themselves. They violate our mammal-centric view of babies in a way that precocial birds like ducks, chickens, killdeer don’t – the ones we see grow up from balls of fluff to full size as they run around following their parents.

  5. Wonderful series of sparrow pics, Diana! It’s so fun to watch fledglings & their parents.

    I also can’t help but say English Sparrow, despite the official name change.

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