A few weeks ago we had a new roof put on (alas–now we are on a serious fiscal austerity program!). Our roof is complicated, and the job took several days to complete. One day while the roofers were here and I was out walking to escape the noise, I discovered a voice message on my phone. It was from the owner of the roofing company, and said, “Hi Lyanda, we found a nest full of baby birds in the cornice, and wonder what we should do?”
Then a second message: “Well, we made a house for the little birds so they wouldn’t die in the sun, and put it on your house, close to where the nest was. It’s not a very good house because we didn’t have proper materials, so I’m sorry about that.” I smiled at the thoughtfulness of the roofers, and wondered just how horrible this ramshackle birdhouse was going to be. But when I got home, this is what I found:
How cute is that? It is neatly made with a leather hinge to open the box, and a perch for the parent birds. Here’s a photo the roofers took while transferring the nest:
How good of them to take time out of the hot day, and their busy job to take care of these birds. The nestlings are, of course, House Sparrows, sometimes called English Sparrows, an introduced species, an urban invasive, and one of the most ecologically despised of all North American birds. Bluebird advocates in particular hate the sparrows for attacking bluebirds and evicting them from their nests, and recommend lethal control for the sparrows. One intrepid elder in the movement catches them in a live trap, then cuts their heads off with her kitchen scissors.
I myself would never consider lethal control for a bird that has already been born, especially one that has made itself part of my household, invited or not. I DO think we should remove nests and eggs of House Sparrows and starlings when we find them, and cover any inviting crevices. The birds will attempt to re-nest several times after their nests/eggs are removed, but we can do our best. Once the young are with us, though, they provide a good opportunity for the study of fledgling birds and parental care, as I wrote in a previous post. Ecological disastrousness aside, the House Sparrow is an interesting bird with relatively complex social behavior, and both the male and female are devoted parents. We can study them closely without worrying about disturbance as we might with a more sensitive, native species.
Curiously, while writing this post, a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk turned up on the wire beyond my study window. He looks skinny, and autumn is a difficult, hungry time for hatch-year hawks. Cooper’s are accipiters–bird eating hawks. Maybe he’ll catch one of the House Sparrows!
Meanwhile, I love our roofers. What an inspiration to see such thoughtful care for wild things, even House Sparrows, even on a hot busy day, 20 feet off the ground.
P.S. Alfa Roofing also did a great job on our roof!