Sydney Sparrow is a very short story for all ages about a cute, cheeky sparrow looking for a mate to start a family with. The aim of this story is to be engaging, inform about House Sparrows and their decline, inspire you to help sparrows, and provide information on how to do this. (Previously available at SmashWords.)
Sydney Sparrow by Willow Wildbrook (my pen name in case I write more) Copyright 2014. Cover by Savanna Teague, all photos are mine.
The sun is rising as Sydney Sparrow rouses himself from his slumber. He has been roosting with the other Sparrows in a hedge, but now it is time he got up to find something to eat, just as you do every morning.
Before flying off, Sydney sings with the other birds. It may sound like a bit of a drag to sing with your neighbours every morning, but it is something they do together since they live as a community. Their song is a combination of twittering, cheeps, and chirrups. There is safety in their numbers because the more eyes they have looking for danger, like predators such as cats and birds of prey, the more likely it is they will spot it. If Sydney, or another Sparrow, sees a threat, they give a warning call and everyone can rush to safety.
Sydney is a cute, cheeky bird. The top of his head is grey, there is chocolate brown down the side of his head and he has a black bib. The top of his body is a mixture of brown, tan, and grey and his underside and wing bars are white. His adorable, fluffy little cheeks are a dirty white colour.
House Sparrows like Sydney barely weigh anything (22-32g) and they need to eat enough food every day to put on enough weight so they can survive night time outside.
You can help Sydney and his friends by putting out some food for them; Sparrows really like seeds, but they also eat insects when they are chicks or are raising chicks. They will readily visit bird feeders; make sure they aren’t placed too far from cover just in case predators visit. Put out some mixed seeds and sunflower hearts all year round. If you have a garden, plant a variety of plants to provide seeds and insects for Sparrows to eat as well as brightening up your space. Remember to provide water as well.
Sparrows are important to the balance of nature. They eat many seeds and, as a result, help disperse them. The bad news for Sparrows like Sydney is that they are food for predators such as birds of prey and cats.
As Sydney is hopping around foraging for food, his thoughts have turned to the other very important thing he needs to do. It is spring now, the days are getting longer, and every young Sparrow needs to find a mate. Sydney is looking for a female Sparrow; he is looking for someone strong, fit, and healthy with which to raise a family. Typically, Sparrows mate for life. To find his mate, Sydney first needs to scout out a nesting site.
Sydney needs to look his best to attract a mate; females choose their mates based on the nest site the male finds, how well he defends it, and his plumage. Sydney keeps his feathers clean by bathing and he removes pests from his plumage by dust bathing. You can help Sydney and other Sparrows by providing birdbaths and bare patches of dry soil, perhaps in a sunny spot.
After feeding and bathing, Sydney starts looking for a nest site, flying over gardens searching for cavities that will be big enough and safe from predators.
Sydney would love to nest in a hole in a building or some thick vegetation near the rest of his colony, but suitable places are getting harder to find. You can give Sparrows a hand by putting up nesting boxes for them; they need to be 2-4 metres high facing south with a 32mm entrance hole.
Flying over his third garden, Sydney finds a new nest box has been put up. It is well placed, nice and high, and out of direct sunlight. He goes in to check it out and he is in luck; no one else has found the box! He claims it as his own. Sydney starts calling just outside the box to attract a female, he will do this regularly and start collecting material for the nest until he has a mate.
After a while Satin, a lovely, healthy female, approaches Sydney. Satin, like all female Sparrows, is duller in colour to the males. Her wings are much the same as Sydney’s, but streakier. Her underside is a tawny colour, she has tan eye lines and the top of her head is brown, not grey.
Sydney is very pleased; he really likes Satin. He shows off with a kind of dance, showing his plumage and bib.
After a ritual of flirtation Satin agrees to be Sydney’s mate; they will stay together for life. Sydney is very fortunate to have found a nest and a mate, many birds are not so lucky. Un-partnered Sparrows will help mated pairs raise their young. This is a good strategy as it improves the survival rate of the chicks and, if one of the mated pair dies, one of the helpers is more likely to be chosen as a replacement mate.
Sydney and Satin finish building their nest together. The outside is made of grass and the soft inside is made of feathers.
At last, their nest is built! It’s time for Satin to lay her eggs. House Sparrows lay four or five eggs that are light grey and speckled with grey and brown.
Sadly, as it is Sydney and Satin’s first season, it is unlikely they will breed successfully. Don’t be disheartened, they have found each other and will nest together each year, having two or three broods a year, and will get better at it.
Both parents incubate the eggs for eleven to fourteen days and both parents feed the young once they have hatched. After about another fourteen days the young leave the nest but the parents keep feeding them for eleven to nineteen days. Baby Sparrows look a bit dull, they have pink bills and extra wide mouths; this helps the parent birds feed them lots of insects to help them grow.
I’m sure Sydney, Satin, and the other House Sparrows will do well in the future and have many chicks; that is, if they have your help. As long as they have somewhere to nest and plenty of food and water, they will thrive.
Try out some of the tips in this story and keep an eye on your garden for these cheeky chappies!
In the UK House Sparrows are in decline and are currently red-listed . This means they have suffered at least a 50% reduction in the UK breeding population in recent years, and are of high concern conservation wise.
Thank you for reading!
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Bibliography: RSPB handbook of British Birds (Third edition), RSPB website, CJ Wildlife newsletter, Wikipedia.
|Free colouring in page download. Click the image to see it in Flickr, click the bottom right down-arrow button for DL options.|
|Click image to see full story cover art created by Savanna Teague.|