Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

May 18, 1877. Omaha Weekly Herald 12(30): 2.

English Sparrows.

Vigorous Defense of Insect Killing Birds by "John Bull."

  • Omaha, May 15.
  • To the Editor of the Herald.

Your remarks come days since, from The Troy Whig missed another of John Bull's pugnacious characters but in defense of the most useful of nearly all English birds. I am glad to see, however, you have a somewhat atoned for the error you were falling into by your remarks in this day's Herald.

The Troy Whig says: "The robin and other native birds have failed to return to our city-why is it? Simply because their experiences in a few years past with the spiteful, pugnacious and revengeful sparrow with which we are overrun, was not continued pleasantness, the desire on the part of the sparrows to reign supreme rendering association with them unbearable."

The writer shows his utter ignorance in these bilious remarks, and shows nature more akin to the character he would give the little English scavengers. The English robin is one of the most spiteful birds, but as an insect destroyer is equal to the sparrow, and is much more full of song than its American namesake.

There are two kinds of sparrows, the home and the hedge sparrow. The home sparrow lives in towns and around farm yards, and farm buildings; the hedge sparrow in hedges around fields. They multiply into millions in England and throughout Europe. It is a common thing to find the nests of the house sparrow built close to that of the robin in our ivy covered houses, living in harmony, but all employed in one mission, that of war on the insect tribes that particularly infest Great Britain. The lands of ENgland are highly cultivated with stable manure, producing worms and other insects in hundreds of millions, and I do not think we should ever raise a crop if it were not for the very bird The Tory WHig so grossly belies.

Some few years since in the north of France they had all the sparrows, both hedge and house, destroyed. Year after year the crops were destroyed by insects, until finally, at a very great outlay, the authorities replaced from Hag and what they had declared to be pests. With the return of the small birds the crops were equal to former years, and there is now a very heavy penalty for killing small birds of any kind.

The Troy Whig shows its ignorance and prejudice in the conclusion of the article in the remarks, "well, take away these foreigners, we'd rather have the worms."

I rather think the Troy Whig has the worms or they would not write such bosh. Fancy a Nebraskian saying in a few years, "shoot the sparrows; we would rather have back our friends, the grasshoppers."

I say plant trees and import sparrows, English robins, yellow hammers, rooks, (the greatest of all English feathered scavengers). Do not look after house sparrows alone, but try the hedge sparrow and you will have no grasshoppers.

I admit the English sparrow is plucky, and so are all insect-eating birds, as well as beef-eating Englishmen, but you have on this great American Continent a class who are perhaps fed with pap, mush and milk, whose bray is often heard in the land a little louder that the chirrup of the English sparrow, who would heed that which is European as foreign, therefore beneath the native American, and show their low origin and weak mental standard by offering every insult (if it can be accepted from such as an insult) to men, women or children. Some few of these people may be found everywhere, in Troy, New York, in Omaha, and their ignorant intolerance are not even excepted in churches and sociable gatherings, Yours,

  • John Bull.