Exploring Nature: House Sparrow

The house sparrow is one of the most widespread and abundant songbirds in the world today. FREE USE PHOTO

I have a friend who teaches English in a town called Xianyou in China. She tells me this is the year of the dog in that country.

She also informs me she has never seen a golden pheasant, rated by some as the most beautiful bird in the world and found only in China.

She does, however, remember that Mao Zedong, chairman of the Communist Party of China, once ordered that all house sparrows be killed because it was felt they consumed too much grain in the field. So these little birds were slaughtered by the millions back in the late 1950s. People killed them with guns and sticks, even smashing their eggs and destroying their nests.

Result? In the absence of sparrows, locusts thrived. The voracious insects swarmed the fields in 1959 and 1960 and devastated crops. As a result of these crop failures, some 30 million people died.

Only after the campaign was called off did agriculture rebound and by that time, Chairman Mao had nominated another creature for eradication in China – the bedbug.

I never heard how that turned out, but I do know the common house sparrow is doing well around my place. Along with titmice, it is the most common bird I have year-round. And I would hate to see my sparrows wiped out – I might get bedbugs.

San Marcos Daily Record

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