House Sparrows in the Sahara

House Sparrow at Merzouga, Morocco

House Sparrow at Merzouga, Morocco

House Sparrows are an often over-looked bird species.

In my last post, I wrote about a visit a few years ago to the Sahara Desert in Morocco. In that post, I shared photos of the Eurasian Collared Dove I saw in Merzouga on the edge of the Sahara Desert. My wife, my daughter and I were on a tour of Morocco. The emphasis was on being tourists. Despite this, I was also on the lookout for opportunities to see new birds – any birds – and to get photographs of as many as possible.

After our camel ride into the Sahara Desert on sunset, we stayed in a Berber tent on Christmas Eve. Pre-dawn on Christmas Day saw the group staggering up a nearby sand dune to witness the sun rising over the desert, a truly wonderful experience. After riding out of the desert on camels again – such uncomfortable animals – we had breakfast. This sumptuous meal was in the grounds of a nearby hotel.

While having breakfast I was able to photograph a small number of birds nearby, including the female House Sparrows shown in today’s post.  I found that this is a common species throughout Morocco. I recorded it in many places, including the bigger cities like Casablanca through to smaller rural villages.

I even noticed a small flock of them in the few trees near our campsite out in the desert. There was obviously enough food around to sustain a small population a considerable distance from houses. I find this is also true of this species here in Australia. I have seen quite large flocks – up to many dozens or more – quite some distance from human habitation, their preferred habitat. The small flock I saw in the desert had the advantage of plenty of grasses on and between the sand dunes nearby, as illustrated by these photos.

I am intrigued by the photo below. This shows two female sparrows at a hollow in the mud and straw wall of the building near where we had breakfast. I couldn’t tell whether they had made the hollow, or some other species had done it. It reminded me of the House Sparrows I encountered when I was a child. I grew up on a wheat and sheep farm in the Murray Mallee district of South Australia. The plentiful sparrows often made small nesting tunnels in the straw-thatched roof of the cow shed, as well as the roof of a hay shed.


House Sparrow at Merzouga, Morocco

House Sparrow at Merzouga, Morocco

Opportunistic and Cheeky Sparrows

House Sparrow

House Sparrows are a very common introduced bird species here in South Australia. They seem to breed in good numbers in our garden. They can also be very opportunistic where it comes to feeding, and they can be very cheeky when doing so.

I saw a classic example in the CBD of Adelaide on Wednesday. I’d just been to the Royal Adelaide Hospital for a specialist appointment (everything was okay). I then visited one of my favourite bookshops in Rundle Mall. After a short wander through the shop – I resisted spending any money – it was time for some lunch.

I wandered into a nearby food mall where there were about a dozen choices of fast food. I resisted the less healthy options and bought an “Aussie Spud” – a potato with a variety of trimmings like cheese, beetroot, corn and pineapple. It was delicious and quite filling.

On entering the mall I noticed it was inhabited by a significant number of House Sparrows. The entrance is open throughout the day at both ends so it was easy for the birds to take up residence. Half way through my meal I accidentally dropped a small portion of potato on the floor.

Ooops. Careless of me.

I needn’t have worried. Within a second or two, about four sparrows swooped down from their perch on top of a television screen on the wall and the mess I’d made was devoured instantly.

Sadly I didn’t have my camera with me at the time.