A mystery bird, Casablanca, Morocco

Male House Sparrow?? Casablanca, Morocco

Just as we were leaving our hotel in Casablanca on our visit there last year, I saw this bird in a tree across the road. A quick snap before getting on the bus was all I could achieve, not even time to get out the binoculars. I suspect it is a female House Sparrow; it certainly looks like one. The species is quite common in many parts of Morocco, so I am fairly confident that is what it is.

If any of my readers has more experience of the birds of Morocco than me, or if you disagree with my ID, please leave a comment. I could have enlarged the image digitally, but the result would prove to be too blurry to be helpful.

I will post more about Moroccan birds in the coming days.

Update: March 1st, 2016: one of my readers has confirmed this as a House Sparrow – but a male. On looking again at the photo, I would have to agree.

Grey-headed Sparrow, Ethiopia

Grey-headed Sparrow, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Last December we visited our daughter who was teaching in Addis Ababa. While we were there I had quite a few opportunities to do snatches of birding, including some photography. On one occasion we visited a silk shop situated in a private garden. While my wife and daughter were busy shopping I took the opportunity to wander the garden.

This Grey-headed Sparrow was most obliging, posing nicely for the camera in good light. This species of sparrow is widespread in Africa, not only in Ethiopia. After doing a little research on the species I think that this is the sub-species Northern Grey-Headed Sparrow, but I’d like to be corrected by my readers if I’ve got it wrong.

Grey-headed Sparrow, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Grey-headed Sparrow, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


A sparrow has little accident

A female House Sparrow seconds after an accident

A female House Sparrow seconds after an accident

This morning my attention was caught by a large bang on our kitchen window. I immediately went outside with my camera to see what had caused the noise.

On a table on the veranda was a female House Sparrow looking very sad indeed, but still breathing. I only took the one photo and backed off so I wasn’t adding to the bird’s stress. After about ten minutes she flew off, probably with a very sore head.

Window strikes are very common and can cause birds severe damage and often death. In our case, in certain light conditions, birds flying along in our garden think they can see the way clear to keep flying further into the garden. The reflection fools them into thinking the way is clear – until their flight comes to a sudden thudding stop when they hit the glass. Sadly, there is little we can do to prevent this. I am pleased the bird recovered and was able to fly. Some are not so fortunate.

A little later I discovered a dead male House Sparrow lying in the driveway. I’m not sure if his demise occurred at the same time as the female. Perhaps he was chasing her to mate.  I guess it’s possible.

Birding around Gisborne, Victoria

Crimson Rosella, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra

Crimson Rosella, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra

On our holiday earlier this year we stayed for several days with friends in Gisborne, north of Melbourne. I didn’t deliberately go our birding while there but we did go for several drives in the district and I’ll write about those in coming days.

Instead, I took note of those species I saw or heard around the garden and on a walk we did one evening. I was quite surprised by the numbers of Common Mynas now present in Gisborne. I can’t recall ever seeing so many on previous visits. On one occasion there must have been at least 30 sitting on a neighbour’s roof and fence. That is too many!

The town still has large numbers of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Long Billed Corellas. Several times I heard a small flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos flying over. Crimson Rosellas (photo) are also quite common in the area, but I can’t recall seeing or hearing any lorikeets or Galahs on this visit. They must have been around, but I didn’t record any this time.

The common garden birds, apart from the mynas, included House Sparrows, Common Blackbirds, Australian Magpies, Red Wattlebirds and New Holland Honeyeaters. Interestingly, the Mynas seem to have replaced the Common Starling.

I also saw a small flock of thornbills moving through the garden. None would give me a good enough look to positively ID them. They might have been Little Thornbills, but I can’t be sure.

House Sparrows eating berries

House Sparrows are large members of the finch family of birds. As such, they are predominantly seed eaters.

In reality, House Sparrows are far more omnivorous than that. Sure, they do eat a lot of seeds. For this we are grateful at our place, otherwise we might not just be over run with weeds but positively lost in a jungle of undesirables. I had to struggle to find something positive about those pesky little critters that seem to breed like rabbits… actually – our rabbit population is now breeding like sparrows… but that’s a story for another day.

Observing several House Sparrows near our bird bath recently I was interested to see that, after a quick drink, they both went to a nearby bush. This plant happened to be a local species called Enchylaena tomentosa. It is also known by the common name of Ruby Salt Bush. We have a few around on our property but I didn’t think they had any fruit on them at present. The sparrows were quite obviously eating the berries.

I guess the House Sparrows do eat far more than just seeds. According to the record in HANZAB* they eat a wide range of insects, spiders, fruits, grains (cereal crops) and berries such as the Boxthorn and the Ruby Salt Bush.  Some have even been observed eating the nectar from a variety of trees and bushes. And we mustn’t forget their scavenging habits of eating food scraps left by humans.

HANZAB also mentions that they can be a pest in vegetable gardens too. Most gardeners will quickly point out that the humble House Sparrow has a definite liking for young seedling plants and poultry lovers will keep the local population booming by supplying a steady gourmet food source in their chook yards.

It seems that the little House Sparrow has rather eclectic tastes.

Further reading:

  • House Sparrows – Birds in Backyards site
  • Australian Plant Society article on Ruby Salt Bush – with a photo of the plant and berries
  • *HANZAB – Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds Volume 7
House Sparrow

House Sparrow