House sparrow (Passer domesticus)
The House sparrow is an endearing, friendly little garden bird whose almost consistent year-round presence is always welcome. However, despite its notoriety as being one of the most sociable and gregarious birds in existence, it’s an understatement to say the sparrow has had a very tough time throughout history.
Purging, culling and murdering are three of the most commonly used words associated with the House sparrow. And it doesn’t stop there. From culture to culture, the sparrow has been relegated to lechery, over-promiscuity and commonality; even the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph (G37), which uses the sparrow as a determinative ideogram, means “badness”, small and narrow. And our own literary geniuses, Shakespeare and Chaucer, had a bone to pick with House sparrows, calling them lecherous creatures.
Despite all ancient, and relatively recent, attempts to remove the House sparrow, it’s clearly a stubborn little bird, as in 2016 it was voted the most commonly observed garden bird in the UK, according to the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. This is at the tail-end of years of decline, which, from the peak of the 1970s, saw the population of Passer domesticus reduce by up to 71%.
Hopefully, times have changed.