Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sparrows in Winter

Some thoughts from my favorite nature writer,  Hal Borland, about my blog's namesake birds.

A Song for Supper

"Among the daily customers at the Winter bird feeder, the tree sparrows are almost as common as the chickadees, and usually as welcome. One reason is that the tree sparrow, that fellow with a single dark button on his light gray vest, will volunteer a song for his supper even in the midst of a snowstorm. He doesn't go into ecstasies over the weather in December, perhaps, but his is more than a mere twitter even now. By January he will be as much of a songster as a chickadee, and by February he will sing about Spring, regardless of the weather.

The name is deception, for the fellow is essentially a bird of the bushes and the underbrush. Even at nesting time - and the tree sparrow nests up around Hudson Bay - these sparrows stay close to the ground. And the Summer habits are carried south in the Winter. For the tree sparrow is a migrant, sometimes going as far south as the Carolinas. Those that Winter here will be on their way back north no later than April.

Every farmer and every gardener who knows his birds welcomes the tree sparrow, who probably consumes as many weed seeds, ounce for ounce, as any bird alive. In a state the size of Connecticut the tree sparrows alone will eat as much as eleven tons of weed seed in a single season. What they eat at the feeding station is small pay for such a service. And even the handouts are paid for in song as well as service. Who could ask for more than that?

Hal Borland
"Sundial of the Seasons"
December 1959


  1. Google says that our sparrows are different from the americans, but i like them any way.

  2. I like sparrows a lot. There aren't as many here as there used to be, but still plenty, and I hope it'll stay that way.

  3. I wonder how Hal knew that the tree sparrows of Connecticut ate as much as eleven tons of weed seed in a season.

  4. We get quite a few different sparrow species in the summer. Most of them are smarter than me and go south for the winter which is late this year.

  5. I wonder if these are the same as European Sparrows? Ours are rather uninteresting small brown birds that are probably the most common garden visitor.