The sparrow is a familiar little bird, and is widespread throughout Britain and Ireland but sadly in recent years its numbers have been in significant decline. House sparrow populations across Britain have been hit by a loss of nesting sites and food sources, particularly a lack of insects to feed their young. In rural areas, changes in farming practices are thought to have affected house sparrows. But in urban and suburban areas the causes have been more complex, with everything from cats to air pollution and pesticides being blamed. The British Ornithology Trust recommends the below 5 steps to help encourage the Sparrow population;
- Let an area of your garden go wild to encourage insects.
- Plant species such as hawthorn and ivy which provide thick vegetation for sparrows to hide in.
- Provide your birds with a home, using either a house sparrow terrace or a group of nest boxes (with 32mm entrance holes) near the eaves of your property.
- If you feed your birds, provide them with a suitable seed mix that includes large grains.
- Regularly clean your feeding stations to prevent disease.
Folklore A sparrow flying into the home is seen as a sign of impending death. One variation of this superstition is that in Kent, England, the person who catches one must kill it or else his parents will die. Other variations include one that the catcher must kill it or else he will be the one who dies. Luckily for the sparrow, they rarely fly into people’s homes and most people no longer feel the need to kill one if it does. This may be the source for the many birds in the house are unlucky superstitions. Having experienced a bird in the house scenario – it is a strange thing to happen and does make you feel that it may be an ill omen. The call of the sparrow is said to herald rain.
The ancient Egyptians used a hieroglyph that represented the house sparrow. It was used to represent the words “small,” “narrow,” or “bad.” again pointing to a negative association with the Sparrow. The sparrow was a sacred bird to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and symbolised true love and a spiritual connection, not just lust. (Although in contradiction to this, sparrows are often regarded as the most lustful and sexually active birds!)In Troy, 9 sparrows were eaten by a snake and this foretold 9 years of war.
From Folklore and The Occult Sciences; Apparently according to tradition the Sparrow betrayed Christ in the garden by singing ‘he is alive, he is alive’ whilst the swallow cried ‘he is dead, he is dead’. With the Hindus the Sparrow is symbol of passion, and their God Kama is represented as riding a Sparrow, his bow of sugar cane, strung with bees (they are often portayed as lusty birds) I realise I may not be helping the sparrow population here…but I also found this little rhyme;
‘If a sparrow doth perch beneath your thrall (eaves); then prestige of woe, woe come to all; Trouble he will bring to field and store; Death and destruction will enter your door’
On a more positive note current themes for the sparrow tend to be more positive. The sparrow now tends to symbolise vigilance, joy, creativity and wisdom. Sparrows are small in size but extremely protective, especially as a clan. Sparrows are constantly busy building nests, foraging for food and protecting their young, and they serve as a reminder that busy hands and minds promote a happy and full life. I would welcome a return of the sparrow in our gardens, parks and countryside.