THE ENGLISH SPARROW.

THE English Sparrow was first introduced into the United States at Brooklyn, New York, in the years 1851 and '52. The trees in our parks were at that time infested with a canker-worm, which wrought them great injury, and to rid the trees of these worms was the mission of the English Sparrow.

In his native country this bird, though of a seed-eating family (Finch), was a great insect eater. The few which were brought over performed, at first, the duty required of them; they devoured the worms and stayed near the cities. With the change of climate, however, came a change in their taste for insects. They made their home in the country as well as the cities, and became seed and vegetable eaters, devouring the young buds on vines and trees, grass-seed, oats, rye, and other grains.

Their services in insect-killing are still not to be despised. A single pair of these Sparrows, under observation an entire day, were seen to convey to their young no less than forty grubs an hour, an average exceeding three thousand in the course of a week. Moreover, even in the autumn he does not confine himself to grain, but feeds on various seeds, such as the dandelion, the sow-thistle, and the groundsel; all of which plants are classed as weeds. It has been known, also, to chase and devour the common white butterfly, whose caterpillars make havoc among the garden plants.

The good he may accomplish in this direction, however, is nullified to the lovers of the beautiful, by the war he constantly wages upon our song birds, destroying their young, and substituting his unattractive looks and inharmonious chirps for their beautiful plumage and soul-inspiring songs.

     

Mrs. Olive Thorne Miller in "Bird Ways" gives a fascinating picture of the wooing of a pair of Sparrows in a maple tree, within sight of her city window, their setting up house-keeping, domestic quarrel, separation, and the bringing home, immediately after, of a new bride by the Cock Sparrow.

She knows him to be a domestic tryant, a bully in fact, self-willed and violent, holding out, whatever the cause of disagreement, till he gets his own will; that the voices of the females are less harsh than the males', the chatter among themselves being quite soft, as is their "baby-talk" to the young brood.

That they delight in a mob we all know; whether a domestic skirmish or danger to a nest, how they will all congregate, chirping, pecking, scolding, and often fighting in a fierce yet amusing way! One cannot read these chapters of Mrs. Miller's without agreeing with Whittier:

"Then, smiling to myself, I said —
How like are men and birds! "

Although a hardy bird, braving the snow and frost of winter, it likes a warm bed, to which it may retire after the toils of the day. To this end its resting place, as well as its nest, is always stuffed with downy feathers. Tramp, Hoodlum, Gamin, Rat of the Air! Notwithstanding these more or less deserved names, however, one cannot view a number of homeless Sparrows, presumably the last brood, seeking shelter in any corner or crevice from a winter's storm, without a feeling of deep compassion. The supports of a porch last winter made but a cold roosting place for three such wanderers within sight of our study window, and never did we behold them, 'mid a storm of sleet and rain, huddle down in their cold, ill-protected beds, without resolving another winter should see a home prepared for them.


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