House Sparrow Interpreter Wanted

House sparrows most definitely cannot sing, in the sense that they never seem to produce a melodious string of notes, like a male blackbird for example. They have no need for song, possess no magical aria or solo performance. But they do have the ability to chirrup with varying degrees of passion and intensity.

We have several pairs living in this old stone cottage. I say living in – well, they nest in the roof spaces, over our front door and window. And they’re busy wee things, zooming from nest to hedgerow with a quick blur of wing and that sound only a tongue can make in the roof of the mouth. Like a soft rolling rrrrrr.

Then they start their conversations, which can range from a stuttering exchange of rapid chirps to a monotonous steady solo that often is full of anxiety, especially when the weather is hot, which it has been this past week or so. That’s only natural I guess. Another favourite is the quicker, less anxious call for a missing partner. Most common is the everyday softer more comforting and reassuring cheep cheep cheep, which I guess is a bonding call. There are others that I have no clue about but seem to be male solo calls of an abstract nature – is this the equivalent of song?

According to A Field Guide to the BIRDS of Britain and Europe Passer domesticus produces a loud cheep, and chissis and occasional grating and twittering sounds. Could there be a bunch of scientists out there somewhere doing the research, microphones at the ready, electronic collars on the birds, interpreting all those mysterious chirps, or is that cheeps, or chirrups?


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