House sparrows, those gregarious, aggressive, busy little foragers, are extraordinarily well adapted to city life. Seed-eaters that first evolved in the Middle East, the birds thrived with the development of agricultural societies, following along as agriculture spread into Europe, Asia and North Africa. They’re now thought to be the most wide-spread bird species in the world.
House sparrows are nothing if not adaptable. In New York, some House sparrows nest the old-fashioned way, in natural tree holes, like this little fellow in Riverside Park.
The location can’t be beat.
Other House sparrows choose to continue their cozy millennia-long association with humans by nesting in the ornate facades of the nineteenth-century townhouses and apartment buildings of old New York.
Neighborhoods like the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights offer plenty of free housing for the enterprising sparrow.
As always in New York, space is at premium, and a terrace is a welcome luxury.
Any little nook will do, really.
This narrow gap between buildings was filled with nests.
And for those House sparrows not lucky enough to find a Riverside Drive house address, or looking for a bit more privacy, there remains a vast number of suitable man-made housing options. Virtually every corner offers a perfect nest hole in the open pipe of a traffic light.
House sparrows were intentionally released in North America in the nineteenth century, and quickly spread throughout the continent. Sadly, they pose a significant threat to less aggressive native species, including Eastern bluebirds, which they out-compete for nesting sites.
If only a few more members of those shyer species would come and share our urban living.