England's Glory: Steve England
AS I was sitting in my garden the other morning moaning about how cold it is still and wishing for warmer weather, my attention was caught by what sounded like a major battle of the birds had broken out in a hedge.
I went over to see what was going on and noticed it was house sparrows fighting. There must have been a dozen or so of them rolling around the hedge, all squabbling and chirping away. Feathers were flying everywhere. At first glance I thought a sparrow hawk had swooped in and taken one and they were merely frightened by this. But not so.
House sparrows are common where I live in Lockleaze. We seem to have high concentrations of them and there is a good reason for it. On council estates, the houses provide a fantastic habitat as the roofs are tiled. Tiles provide a great place to nest and roost at night. That's why you will always find a healthy population of these birds on council estates.
Birds cannot get under the eaves of new-build homes.
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At this time of year the birds are starting to pair up as the breeding season is almost here so the males will be fighting over a female. Within the house sparrow world they have a strict hierarchy. The male sparrows have a black marking on their throats and as the bird matures this gets larger and is an indication of rank.
A first-year male sparrow has a difficult time trying to establish a place within the colony as there are more senior males who have the right to go first.
But as always in nature there are challengers to the system and the younger males want a piece of the action, too. They will often challenge the more senior males with a fight and that was what I was witnessing in the hedge that morning.
But if house sparrows have a organised system this gets thrown out of the window by the hedge sparrow. These birds are ground feeders and common in our gardens.
During breeding season, it's the female who courts the male. She is very crafty and while mating with one male will have another male nearby.
As soon as she has mated with one, she will then vanish into the hedge to mate with the second. This second male will first remove the other male's sperm packet from the female. He will do this to ensure his genes are passed on rather than the first male's. The female is clever as both males will think his chicks are in the nest and both bring food in.
Well, why have a tough time when you can have it easy?