I often feel that sparrows are one of the most overlooked, underrated and thoroughly disliked birds. I grew up in England and these little birds were the most common of visitors to my garden there.
In New Zealand they were introduced to reduce the wide number of crop eating pests; despite this were more interested in eating grains and fruit than the insects for which they were initially intended to control.
The Canterbury Acclimatisation Society liberated 40 sparrows in 1867. However when it became apparent that sparrows had become a pest, the society wished to disassociate itself from any part in their introduction. They circulated the story that in 1867 a Captain Stevens had arrived in Lyttelton with house sparrows instead of the insect loving hedge sparrows he was commissioned to bring. The society claimed that they declined them, but that Stevens released the five house sparrows that had survived the voyage.
Sparrows are prolific breeders and in the 1880’s Sparrow Clubs were formed to control the increase in numbers by laying down poisoned grain and money being offered for their eggs.
I must admit they are without a doubt noisy little birds with a tendency to squabble and I often hear them having quarrels and disagreements in the garden here. They do seem to live alongside people with ease and I was thrilled to come across a treasure of a book a few years ago about a most amazing little sparrow.
The book is called “Sold for a Farthing” and it was written by Claire Kipps. It amusing, poignant tale about the relationship of a woman and an injured sparrow “Clarence” which she finds on her front doorstep after returning home from an air raid during the Second War World in London. With a deformed wing, Claire befriends the little bird sharing her life with him until he dies twelve years later. It is a delightful read accompanied with a number of black and white photographs. Keep your eyes out for a secondhand copy a most precious addition to any home library.