Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: Sparrow by Kim Todd

I am not a big fan of the house sparrow overall. In a previous post I mentioned a new book about the house sparrow I intended to buy and review. I discovered this book when reading a newsletter from the Celebrate Urban Birds program from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Well, I bought the book, Sparrow, by Kim Todd from Amazon and discovered a delightful read. As I said, I am not a big fan of the house sparrow, primarily due to its detrimental effect on some of our native birds, like the eastern bluebird. However, one has to admire a bird that has managed to spread over 6 continents and become so successful.

Ms. Todd brings out the impact of this tiny bird (and other sparrows) on literature and art as well as the story of its success.  I particularly enjoyed the discussion concerning the study of house sparrows in learning more about evolution and bird song. Ms. Todd ends her book with a discussion of the decline of house sparrow populations in many cities. Although the question about why this is happening is still unanswered, the possibilities point to the house sparrow as a possible "canary in the coal mine." In one study it seemed the house sparrows decline was due to underweight and undernourished babies due to a decline in insect populations in the city (a seriously bad thing) and in another, due in part perhaps to a large increase in raptor populations (which would be a good thing.) It will be interesting to discover the result of further research.

This was just a fascinating book--I can't recommend it too highly.

Good birding!                                                                                                              

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