The house sparrow is a small songbird with a conical bill and a chunky body. Males have a grey crown, black bib, streaked brown upperparts, and grayish-white underparts, females are a grey buff with brown wings. Their song is repetitive, metallic, and unmusical.
They were introduced around 1850 to New York City. From there they spread across North America, reaching Vancouver Island 30 years later, around 1880. They are not related to North American sparrows and are in fact related to the African weaver bird. They are fierce competitors for space, driving native bird species out, and are considered agricultural pests.
House Sparrows are monogamous and typically nest in cavities. They will use crevices in buildings, nest boxes, or other birds’ nests, but if they are in an area with no available cavities, they nest in trees or shrubs, often in small colonies. Both sexes help build the nest, which is a globular nest of twigs, grass, and weeds, often lined with feathers. If the nest is in a cavity, the nesting material generally fills the volume with the cavity. Both parents help incubate up to 6 eggs for up to 14 days, and both feed the young. The young leave the nest after about two weeks. They stay nearby for another 10 days or so and then flock with other juvenile birds. The pair raises 2 sometimes 3 broods each year.
Sometimes these birds will move into grocery stores, at the local Superstore here in Campbell River, you could see them all over the store, inside. They would nest in the roof area and feed on various types of food that were always in abundance. This had become a real problem for the store, which had to hire a company to remove them. The birds are still there but now nest outside. I did like hearing them while I shopped though.