Our Winged Companion
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Photo by Aditya Gupta/Unsplash
Nature, World + People

Our Winged Companion

A History of the House Sparrow
Adam Zbyryt
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time 10 minutes

For evolutionary biologists, it is an interesting object of study. For those who grew up in Poland, it is a beloved character of 1980s cartoons and storybooks. The sparrow is a bird which has accompanied humans for some ten thousand years.

Small, gray, inconspicuous: the sparrow. In comparison to other birds, those more colorful and magnificent, it might appear rather unattractive. However, what sets it apart from many other species is an unusual feature—its extraordinary ability to adapt to life in new environments. It thrives in rural areas, as well as in large cities, where it picks at leftovers, for instance those left by people on coffeeshop patios. It even does well north of the Arctic Circle, on the Scandinavian Peninsula, in the deserts of California, or in the tropics of Panama. Just one condition has to be met—humans must live next door. It has been observed that when settlers moved out of an area, shortly after so, too, did the sparrows. This unusual attachment to humans is also reflected in the bird’s Latin and English name—house sparrow. In 1758, the father of the classification system of organisms, Carl Linnaeus, gave the sparrow the species identifier domesticus, derived from the Latin word domus, meaning “house.”

Although it

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The Forest Broadcast
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Birdsong in Spring
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What do the seasons sound like to a naturalist’s ears? Each one sounds different, and spring – a time of avian and batrachian cacophony – has got the nicest sound of all. Winter and summer are not completely devoid of pleasant tones, but it’s in May that true ecstasy can be found.

In the spring, the sounds of nature can be heard everywhere: in fields, forests, meadows and among reeds; in wastelands, woodlands, shrublands, city parks and home gardens. They come from overhead – as flocks of winged wanderers big and small sweep across the sky on their way back from their winter habitats – and from the surface of the water, where birds land to rest or eat.

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