Rental Property

House Sparrow male feeding young-4

(From Beyond Willow Bend, 2013)

My late father-in-law built a birdhouse for our yard. It was a simple thing—a box, painted dark brown, with a peaked roof, a hole, and a peg.

My husband hung it near the garage and we kept watch. Maybe birds were put off by the smell of paint, or the location.  Who knew. Whatever the reason, it was ignored. No birds flew around it, landed on it, or looked inside.

Then, one year, during a fierce storm, it was knocked off its hook. My husband found it in pieces on the lawn—walls scattered, roof upside down—and lovingly reassembled it, overbuilding,  as he does with every piece of furniture he makes.

This time, it was hung in a more sheltered spot by the garage, from a hook that was deeply implanted, better able to withstand our midwestern gales.

Spring came, and, again, we kept watch, encouraged by the interest a mother wren showed in one of our other birdhouses—that one, hung from our house, a gift from a friend. She quickly took up residence there, and busied herself with building a nest, laying her eggs, and feeding her hatchlings.

Her activities kept us entertained for a month or more.

But still the brown house was vacant.

Then, three years ago, at the first sign of spring, a male house sparrow perched on the peg of the brown house. He sat for a minute, then flew down to the lawn where he pulled up some pieces of dried grass. A minute later, he returned to the peg, his beak stuffed.

Finally: tenants. We celebrated and joked about shoving a tiny lease through the hole.

The sparrows stayed all summer, and their fledglings stayed, too, darting in and out of the house well into fall, until the first hard freeze.

The following spring, they returned and settled in.

My husband thought it might be a good idea to clean and check the house for rot before winter, so he could make any repairs it needed, but the sparrows didn’t give him the chance. By the time they took off for their winter home, the first snow had fallen.

And, of course, before he could get out to inspect the property this year, they were back again—earlier than before, seemingly, with the whole family—or mispocha, as we say in Yiddish.

I love birds, but know little about house sparrows.  I can tell you that they have managed to multiply and thrive despite the West Nile virus that wiped out our blue jays and crows. And I can also tell you that they have particular tastes; and once they decorate a house, it’s theirs.

Comments 9

 
Rosy Cole on Wednesday, 30 March 2016 16:04

Lovely. Birds are always amusing.

House sparrows used to be the most common garden birds in the UK when I was growing up, great flurries of mispocha :-) But they're nowhere near as prevalent now. I do have Blue Jay visits at fairly regular intervals, though.

Lovely. Birds are always amusing. House sparrows used to be the most common garden birds in the UK when I was growing up, great flurries of [i]mispocha[/i] :-) But they're nowhere near as prevalent now. I do have Blue Jay visits at fairly regular intervals, though.
Barbara Froman on Wednesday, 30 March 2016 19:20

Thanks, Rosy. You're lucky to have the Jays around. I always loved seeing them in our yard, but they are scarce now due to West Nile virus. The crows seem to be coming back, but not in great numbers. Maybe they're developing some resistance to the virus, who knows. It is interesting though to see which birds fared well (such as the Robins, Finches, and Cardinals) and which ones didn't. But I feel so lucky to have those little birds taking up residence near us. They are such fun to watch! Happy spring!

Thanks, Rosy. You're lucky to have the Jays around. I always loved seeing them in our yard, but they are scarce now due to West Nile virus. The crows seem to be coming back, but not in great numbers. Maybe they're developing some resistance to the virus, who knows. It is interesting though to see which birds fared well (such as the Robins, Finches, and Cardinals) and which ones didn't. But I feel so lucky to have those little birds taking up residence near us. They are such fun to watch! Happy spring!
Rosy Cole on Wednesday, 30 March 2016 20:05

Yes, happy spring! It's when I spend a king's ransom on sacks of birdseed for the rapidly expanding mispocha of wood pigeons. We have our own covey, if you can call it that. They're so proud of their offspring and love to show them off each year and it's fun to watch them teach the youngsters good manners. There's been a lot of courting going on so I reckon this could be a record year :-)

Yes, happy spring! It's when I spend a king's ransom on sacks of birdseed for the rapidly expanding [i]mispocha[/i] of wood pigeons. We have our own covey, if you can call it that. They're so proud of their offspring and love to show them off each year and it's fun to watch them teach the youngsters good manners. There's been a lot of courting going on so I reckon this could be a record year :-)
Stephen Evans on Thursday, 31 March 2016 00:05

Charming :)

Charming :)
Barbara Froman on Thursday, 31 March 2016 16:45

Thank you! :-)

Thank you! :-)
Katherine Gregor on Thursday, 31 March 2016 21:29

What a wonderful gift it is to have a whole family of birds making a home in your garden! We have a lot of sparrows in Norwich. We live in a flat, so no garden, but in the neighbourhood, we have jays, jackdaws, magpies, crows, hordes of seagulls, wood pigeons/pigeons... and a couple of peregrine falcons nesting in the Cathedral spire (four eggs as we speak).

What a wonderful gift it is to have a whole family of birds making a home in your garden! We have a lot of sparrows in Norwich. We live in a flat, so no garden, but in the neighbourhood, we have jays, jackdaws, magpies, crows, hordes of seagulls, wood pigeons/pigeons... and a couple of peregrine falcons nesting in the Cathedral spire (four eggs as we speak).
Barbara Froman on Thursday, 31 March 2016 22:07

I don't think I've ever seen a magpie, Katia! How lucky you are. We have peregrines around here, too. They are so impressive! Last year, we were visited by a Cooper's Hawk while we were sitting on our patio—another truly impressive bird. But, I think (aside from the sparrows, of course!), my favorites are the owls. I can hear them hooting in the trees at night,, but I have yet to see one. They are artists at masking themselves! I keep hoping, though.... :-)

I don't think I've ever seen a magpie, Katia! How lucky you are. We have peregrines around here, too. They are so impressive! Last year, we were visited by a Cooper's Hawk while we were sitting on our patio—another truly impressive bird. But, I think (aside from the sparrows, of course!), my favorites are the owls. I can hear them hooting in the trees at night,, but I have yet to see one. They are artists at masking themselves! I keep hoping, though.... :-)
Former Member on Friday, 01 April 2016 05:34

You know how miners used to keep a canary in the mines to warn of danger. They seemed to sense it.
Maybe that's why you had no tenants until after the storm. Maybe? Nice story. Photo also.

You know how miners used to keep a canary in the mines to warn of danger. They seemed to sense it. Maybe that's why you had no tenants until after the storm. Maybe? Nice story. Photo also.
Barbara Froman on Friday, 01 April 2016 14:25

I hadn't thought of it that way before, Charlie, but it makes a lot of sense. Thank you! Sending cheer!

I hadn't thought of it that way before, Charlie, but it makes a lot of sense. Thank you! Sending cheer!
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