Why the excitement about a such a familiar and abundant introduced species, that some consider pests?
Well, when I was a small kid growing up in Sydney’s South-West, House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) were truly abundant. I would say that four out of every five birds I ever saw was a sparrow. For a time when I was very young, to me the word “bird” meant sparrow.
But for decades now, House Sparrows have been very rare in the Sydney Basin, out-competed by Noisy Miners. So much so that when we travelled further west, the House Sparrows we saw sparked a real nostalgia in me.
The House Sparrow is sexually dimorphic. The male has a highly-patterned head and bib:
His bib becomes fuller and blacker when breeding. The ones we saw at Jugiong NSW were probably not in breeding mode yet.
The female has a much less patterned head, and though her wings are patterned similarly to the male, she tends to be duller and greyer overall. But no less pretty:
The House Sparrow was deliberately introduced into Australia circa 1860. Although its occupation of Sydney has dwindled dramatically, by all reports it is extending its range rapidly west, wherever man lives. It has been sighted in the Torres Strait Islands too.
In Northern Territory and Western Australia there are active control programs to limit their numbers.