Posted: Monday 24 March 2014
by Richard Jones

I’m not sure they really are 'cockney sparrers' - I live too deep into South London - but even Dulwich sparrows are very noisy.

I’m not sure they really are 'cockney sparrers' - I live too deep into South London - but even Dulwich sparrows are very noisy. It’s that time of year when there’s a competition to wake me up before the 6.30 alarm; budgies versus sparrows, most mornings. I can’t really say much about the shrill twittering from the household pets; I cover up the cage with a cloth and pull down the blackout blind each evening to keep them (literally) in the dark as to the exact hour of the rising sun. Sometimes, like my 8-year-old, they sleep through to a decent hour. Not sparrows, though!

All my old reference books talk about the love/hate relationship between humans and sparrows, but that was mostly about their raiding of the cornfields in summer and the grain stores in winter. However, the books also describe sparrows as variously: bold, impudent, bustling, noisy, loud, penetrating, confident, mischievous, bickering, obstinate and, in one old tome, riotous. That just about sums it up.

I always fondly imagined that the dawn chorus was an orchestra of delicate flute and piccolo tunes, melded together to produce a melodious concerto to celebrate the sun’s warm return. Turns out it’s a tempest of competing alarm and trade calls for the world’s most disorganized street market. I know, I know: I should be pleased to have all these birds singing in my front and back gardens, and I am, just not every morning at 5 o’clock.

The sparrows, especially, I should be pleased about, as they’re having a hard time at the moment. According to the RSPB, they’ve suffered a 60-70% decline since the 1970s, and no one really knows why. Personally, I blame middle-class garden tidiness, new roofs and loft conversions. Nevertheless, there seem to be two gangs comprising 10-15 individual sparrows in our street. One group regularly takes up shouting positions in the apple tree at the back of the house, and after a bit of argumentative banter they move through to the front garden to quarrel about who goes where in the newly sprouting, long, thin branches of the maple tree I savaged last year. This puts them within 5 metres of my ears.

There’s still not much leaf-cover in the gardens hereabouts, so they’re always very flighty and nervous. Mind you, that probably just makes them even noisier. Occasionally, a passing crow sends them on their way. I like the crows.

Thanks to Ray Kennedy / RSPB Images for kind permission to use their lovely image. Visit the RSPB Giving Nature A Home website here. View the results of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch here.

Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Sparrows
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Mandy Eyre 06/04/2014 at 17:39

I never realised it was the sparrows that made all the morning noise! The crows may move them on but they are very noisy indeed! I suppose there is nothing I can do to encourage
them to move to the trees further away? I have three cats and that doesn't do the trick for getting any birds to move along!
Are there any quiet morning birds I can encourage? and if so, how ?
Also, is it still worth putting bird boxes up for this years nesters? or have I left it too late?

Welsh Daffodil 06/04/2014 at 18:00

You are lucky to get the birds into your garden and with three cats!  I love listening to the birds, and watching them.  The sparrows inhabit the honeysuckle at the bottom of my garden in the summer and bring the babies to feed from the feeders I have hanging around.  The blackbird is lovely to hear in the morning and late evening, watch out for him.  I always leave cut apples out as they love them.  The starliing is a messy eater and a bit of a bully but great to watch, so I would make the most of them when you can and enjoy their noise!

Hostafan1 06/04/2014 at 18:34

I'm in North Devon and I just love my garden birds ( well most of them ) We have lots of sparrows and even though they wake up early , I just love to hear the birds singing in the morning.

I agree with WD about blackbirds. Mine are constantly foraging for snail/ slug eggs and even though they toss stuff onto the paths, I love them. 

I'm not keen on the crows as they steal chicks from nests. We have a dairy farm nearby and we're inundated with starlings in winter, but they've moved on now.

philippa smith2 06/04/2014 at 18:57

Mandy........I think it's what is known as the dawn chorus.................perhaps you could encourage some of the Owl species............they will tend just be noisy at night.

 Bird boxes may encourage these noisy creatures so best not to risk it.  I don't think we do "designer" birds those that sing only at the whim of humans..

 Tho with 3 cats, it's probably best you don't encourage any birds into your garden..........quiet or not.............that way, maybe there will be a few more birds for those of us who enjoy them.....noisy or not. 

Sorry but it was a bit of a stupid question 

philippa smith2 06/04/2014 at 19:12

Oops............on reflection I think perhaps Mandy is a WUM........ which we have just fallen for one can be that silly in real life can they

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