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House Sparrows' Dance

Church sparrows got themselves into trouble
© Dennis Sanderson View Large

In 1559, Duke August of Saxony ordered that the House Sparrows of Dresden be excommunicated. The birds were slipping into Holy Cross Church, where they interrupted the sermon with exuberant chirping and “endless unchaste behavior” before the altar. Now their manic chirping and courtship displays are heard almost worldwide. This little brown Romeo will puff out his black breast and expose the silvery feathers on his rump. Other males join in, chirping louder and faster as they face off. Look for the sparrows’ dance in your neighborhood … or church!

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

The House Sparrows’ Dance

Written by Rick Wright

This is BirdNote.
Back in 1559, Duke August of Saxony ordered that the House Sparrows of Dresden be excommunicated.
[House Sparrow songs and calls, ML 169771]
The familiar birds were slipping into Holy Cross Church and interrupting the sermon with their exuberant chirping — and, as Duke August described it, their “endless unchaste behavior” before the altar.
[House Sparrow songs and calls, ML 169771]
It’s nearly 500 years later, and they’re still at it. That manic chirping can now be heard almost worldwide. Their cheeping and peeping rings from suburban rooftops, home improvement centers, and yes, even the inside of some churches.
[House Sparrow songs and calls, ML 169771]
House Sparrows are at their noisiest, and their most endearing, during the male’s courtship
display.  As he struts and spins in front of his intended, the little brown Romeo puffs out his handsome black breast and droops his wings and cocks his tail to expose the silvery feathers of his rump.
[House Sparrow songs and calls, ML 169771]
Other males soon join in, their chirping growing ever louder and faster as they face off. All the fuss and attention act as a “super-stimulus” to the flattered female.
[House Sparrow songs and calls, ML 169771]
Look for the sparrows’ underappreciated dance in your neighborhood. It might just be enough to distract you from the sermon, too.
For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.
                                                                               ###
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. 169771 recorded by Curtis A. Marantz.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
© 2017 Tune In to Nature.org   July/August 2017   Narrator: Michael Stein
ID#     HOSP-04-2017-07-11    HOSP-04    

References:
Bugs and Beasts Before the Law, by E.P. Evans http://bit.ly/2rGRHi0
Communal Display of the House Sparrow, by D. Summers-Smith http://bit.ly/2rTLmAX    

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