The Sparrow—Friend or Foe?
NEW neighbors have just moved in. Ousting the former tenants and chasing away any curious onlookers, they have settled down to the daily business of raising and feeding a family.
Their name, sparrow, is applied to several different birds, but it generally refers to members of the weaver family. Sparrows are usually small, inconspicuous birds with gray, brown, and black plumage. Many are accomplished songsters.
Perhaps, though, sparrows are not the kind of neighbors you would choose. For while they are admired by some for their courage and adaptability, these little birds have become unpopular in some places.
Why Viewed as a Villain
The house sparrow (Passer domesticus), or English sparrow, was carried from Europe to North America in 1851 in hopes that it would free trees of the destructive cankerworm. However, sparrows soon learned that urban dwelling was easier than country living. So instead of eating bugs, they turned to eating scraps of food and soon mastered the art of raiding garbage cans. “The adaptability and aggressiveness” of the house sparrow, notes the book North American Birds, “matches the character of furred immigrants like the brown rat, the black rat, and the house mouse.”
Sparrows build their messy, untidy homes in every nook and cranny. Feathers, wool, and discarded cloth are among the ingredients they favor in nest construction. Often they drive away the native birds and cheekily take over their nests, turning out the eggs of the ousted tenants. Moreover, sparrows are destructive of a variety of fruits, and they eat ripening seeds and tender, young vegetables.
In Brazil, where the house sparrow was also deliberately introduced, not only did it damage crops but it also drove out the beloved tico-tico bird. Similar in size and coloring to the sparrow, the tico-tico is a sociable, useful little bird that destroys insects harmful to crops.
Yet sparrows are fun-loving birds that chirp and twitter, and many people enjoy watching them as they flutter from their perch to the ground and back up again. One bird-watcher relates: “We have about seven sparrow nests in the immediate vicinity of our house. . . . A group of the birds can be found playing in the water at the same time, bumping into one another in the process. Some get into quite a ‘tizzy.’ They dive and flip, and they wiggle from side to side, fluffing out their feathers until they are just about waterlogged. Then, they hop onto the fence, wipe their beaks, shake themselves as a dog would, peer down at the water and take another dive. It can go on for maybe an hour at a time, and then they fly off only to return in an hour or two.” At times sparrows can also be seen taking dust baths in dry soil along the road or in a flower bed.
Interestingly, sparrows are mentioned in the Bible. Twice, Jesus used these little-regarded birds to illustrate God’s tender care. When sending out his 12 apostles to preach, Jesus asked them: “Do not two sparrows sell for a coin of small value?” and then he explained: “Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Therefore have no fear: you are worth more than many sparrows.” Later in his ministry, Jesus repeated this illustration, thus emphasizing that since God does not forget even a single sparrow, He will not forget those who serve Him.—Matthew 10:29, 31; Luke 12:6, 7.
Obviously, Jehovah God values all of his creations, both small and great. And while the characteristics of certain creatures may not always endear them to us, the many and varied forms of living things reflect the wisdom of our Grand Creator.—Psalm 104:24.