Written by an area Landscape Architect and birdwatcher with over 30 years of experience with landscaping in north Texas: what works and what doesn't. Emphasis on attracting birds to north Texas yards, and reducing required yard maintenance. Tips, trivia and proven advice for a natural, low-cost approach for this unique and sensitive part of the country.
When it comes to birds, I have a pet
peeve. We’ve all seen what’s usually called sparrows in parking lots, city
trees… everywhere. In everyday language, they’re called house sparrows.They are not really native sparrows, however,
in the proper, scientific sense. They’re weaver-finches. ”Passeridae” for the
This is the time of year when the true Sparrows fly
down to north Texas (from Canada) to spend the winter. Since they are all
mainly ground-feeders, and the ground up north is frozen solid and snow-covered, they
like our relative warmth. And the insects/food they have access to.You’re most likely to see them foraging among
“leaf litter” on the ground in large flocks, which often contain other species too.
importantly, the true sparrows aren’t here in the warm months, and they all migrate here for the winter.
The bird that has picked up the name “house
sparrow” is not native to this continent (not found here naturally). They were
imported from Europe in the late 19th century. The intent was to rid
cities of some insects. Instead they reproduced and spread like crazy, mostly
because they have no natural enemy on this continent. (Sort of like the
imported Kudzu vine has taken over many southern landscapes). Not being native,
they are not protected by the U.S.
Migratory Bird Act.
They seem like cute little birds. But their
aggressiveness and domineering habits have made them pests in situations where
they live alongside our native birds – particularly Bluebirds and Purple
Martins. In fact, you see fewer of these native birds around (especially Bluebirds)
because the birds known as house sparrows destroy Bluebird eggs, kill babies,
and take over their nesting sites. (They’re here all year long)
North America’s true Sparrows are here only
in the cooler months, and don’t deserve to be called “just sparrows”.Our Chipping Sparrows, Lincoln Sparrows,
Grasshopper Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Harris’ Sparrows, Juncos (a
kind of sparrow) and such are subtly attractive and well-behaved, unlike the
imported usurper of the name.
most of you know, reindeer and caribou are the very same animal, with the same
scientific name. As to what pulled Santa’s sleigh, remember that the Christmas
tradition developed mainly in Europe.
deerlike animals live north of the tree-line in sub-arctic regions. The “reindeer”
in northern Europe and Greenland are slightly smaller than the animals called
“caribou” in North America, probably having developed that way over thousands
of years when different populations of the same species were separated over
long periods of time. During that time they had different diets. Both, of
course, are fast runners and are able to live largely on lichens during the
arctic winters. None, as far as science has observed, have a red nose; except in peoples' imagination.
of us live in a “suburbia” of some sort, so I’ll relay a study published
inthe Journal of Ornithology that sheds
new light on a situation relevant to suburbia and birdwatching.
study focused on 3 suburban sites, all near a major U.S. city.It found that predation accounted for 79% of
bird deaths. Not disease, not starvation, not bad weather---but an otherwise-healthy
songbird being fatally attacked. 47 percent of predation events was by domestic
your viewpoint on this issue, the need to reach some sort of agreement is
clear. Letting domestic cats roam freely outdoors is no good for any creature.
Cats that roam freely live only half as long as indoor cats, and tend to bring
all kinds of germs and dirt into the house. Cats rarely kill birds because
they’re hungry; it’s simply in their nature as hunters.
if you have a housecat, like me, be kind and keep it safe and indoors.