Have you ever wondered why the sparrow is such a nondescript small grey bird? Or why that little creature can only hop about with straight legs?A long time ago the sparrow was a colourful running bird cherished by many. How did this change come about? There are many legends about plants and animals which may have played a part in the crucifixion of Jesus. One of these is about the sparrow. Draw closer and listen:
The roads to Jerusalem were crowded with people. Jesus stumbled forward with the cross on his shoulders towards the place of his execution. The crown of thorns tormented him and blood dripped down onto his face. The small robins and swallows kept diving down, trying to pull as many of the thorns as they could out of his bleeding head so as to ease his pain. In recognition of their help both birds still have a reddish brown coloured breast. As for the role the sparrows played… to the dismay of Christ’s followers, these colourful birds whose endless chattering added welcome cheer to the backstreets of Jerusalem picked up the thorns from the street and thrust them back into Christ’s skin! The onlookers were appalled to see how the sparrows then flew back, happily singing as they went, to the eaves of the roofs from where they mocked at Jesus with their prattle.
After Jesus died, the sparrows were severely punished for their deluded behaviour. Their beautiful colours were taken away, leaving them with their now familiar nondescript grey and brown. Their prattling songs were robbed of their beautiful notes, which explains why they can only produce a nasal chirping. The pleasure of running around was made impossible by their straight legs, making how they have to hop about look simply stupid. However, they were allowed to keep their shared love of fun and high spirits. But to this very day most people look down on the stupid little grey sparrow.
Organizations for protecting birds everywhere are seriously concerned about the sparrow’s welfare. In the last century there were vast numbers of sparrows in every village and town. However, ever since there has been a substantial decrease in the sparrow population. Some experts talk about a drop in numbers of even 50%. Various causes have been pinpointed. One of these is the widespread ‘tidying up’ of our homes and surroundings: gardens and waysides are now carefully tended to; rough ground with its weeds and seeds have mostly disappeared; hedges have made way for fences; lawns and fields are mown far into the autumn, so that less of the seed forms which provides animals with their food through the winter; modern roof tiles have made nesting impossible. Nevertheless, with very simple measures everyone can help the sparrow to thrive: by recreating rough areas in your gardens; by feeding them; and by installing special nesting tiles in your roof.
Common sparrows live in groups. If you see a single sparrow going about its business in the vicinity of thickets, then take another look. You are likely to be watching a hedge sparrow.
© Els Baars, Natuurverhalen.nl