Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

Editor [possibly Miles Greenleaf]. June 27, 1915. An Abused Family [Sparrows]. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 50(39): 4-N. A bird editorial.

An Abused Family.

Anybody who inhabits a house with beamed eaves will cheerfully admit that the English sparrow is an abomination. Besides building nests that look like so many dengenerate haystacks and increasing their own population faster than could be tabulated by the swiftest of all adding machines, these utterly impossible pests have a penchant for starting a rip-sporting scrap beneath every bedroom window in the community shortly before five o'clock a.m.

There isn't anything good to be said about the English sparrow except that he is sort of cheerful and encouraging in the winter, when he comes mooching around the garbage can with a sad eye and a promise-to-be-good cast o' countenance. If it be true that he wages war on certain insectiverous undesirables his efforts are not appreciated, for most people would rather live with the bugs than with the English sparrow.

Yet he is the outcast scion of a noble and much abused family. He might be likened to the black sheep of some aristocratic British house, cast forth and cut off from his patronage, to squabble and moil for a mere livelihood in the alleys and rubbish heaps of America. It is not hard to picture his relatives pursuing their lips and turning their heads when his name is mentioned. Maybe a grim tear is shed. Mayhap there are subtle smiles.

But this much is certain - his family is of the most gentle and beautiful and interesting of all birddom. Be he ever so obnoxious, the English sparrow is the only blot on the 'scutcheon of the ancient and honorable line of sparrows - long may they live!

Just now, in these remarkably accessible parks and preserved patches of wilderness adjacent to the city there are excellent opportunities offered for the study of bird life, but it is fortunate that you will scarcely have to pass the limits of the metropolis to make an acquaintance with two of the most lovable of the sparrow tribe - the Chipping Sparrow and the Field Sparrow. They are about as much like their outcast English relative as a canary is like a jackal.

Pretty little brown fellows, companionable as tabby cats and as little afraid, these two members of a much abused family are worth your attention. Without the aid of glasses you may find it hard to identify them until they sing or call - and then the rest is easy.

You will find the Chipping Sparrow anywhere in the residence district, busy about the porch vines, or in the garden or on the lawn. He has a funny little song - a rapidly uttered series of chips, so run together that they sound a good deal like the buzzing of some insect. Get close enough and you will observe his reddish crown and a white streak over his eye. As any self-respecting sparrow should do, he and his wife build a tiny cup-nest of horsehair and rootlets in some little tree, bush or vine.

Then there is this Field Sparrow person, who just dotes on hot weather and a dry climate, and whom you often have heard whistling his little song, "swee-see-see-see-ee-e-e," on an ascending scale, and sort of fading away into nothing over the torrid hillside, stubble or pasture. He, too, is a mighty pretty little rascal, with a pink bill and a reddish brown coat. His fairylike nest of grasses is skillfully secreted in wood patches or bushes and is harder to find than that of the Chipping Sparrow.

All this merely in defense of a much abused family. In certain periods of the year, right in Omaha or vicinity, you will find the Fox Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Harris Sparrow, Lark Sparrow and a few others. The last three may be in attendance even now, as well as other notable who have failed to register with the society editor, for these sparrows are real aristocrats and have nothing to do with their debauched and forgotten cousin who was banished from his own country nearly fifty years ago.

So don't let yourself get the idea that the only good sparrow is a dead sparrow, for they're different from Indians. Go out this afternoon with your old opera glasses and take a look.