Garden for Wildlife

House Sparrow by Arvind Balaraman from

The most common bird at my feeders is the English House Sparrow. As I sit here typing this post one has come down to one of my feeders for a peanut. I have mixed feelings about non-natives like the English House Sparrow. They are classified as an invasive species because they tend to out compete the natives of the US. House Sparrows.

House Sparrows were introduced into the New World in the mid 1800s in the belief that the birds would help control insects on grain crops. As it turned out, House Sparrows do eat insects but only during the breeding season when they are feeding their young.  For all the rest of their lives House Sparrows are seed eaters and eat the grain they were imported to protect.

Since their introduction House Sparrows have flourished here and are now common through out North America. In fact, it is the most common bird in all the world.

As I said, I have mixed feelings about the English House Sparrow and other invasive animals. My primary reason is that I value all life. Further, I distrust the idea that humans have the wisdom to effectively manage nature. Most of our engineering and manipulations have resulted in colossal messes. It was human activity and ignorance that brought this bird here in the first place. However, House Sparrows are aggressive birds and will invade the nests of native species, such as the Bluebird, attacking and killing the young and driving the adults from the nests or killing them as well. So I understand the need to manage this bird and try to protect our natives. Ironically, while the Sparrow is thriving here, it is, according to the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) it is on the decline in its native England.

Whatever my feelings, the fact of the matter is, invasive species are a huge problem. In Florida, released pythons are in danger of becoming established as a breeding species in the everglades and threaten all wildlife there, even alligators. Here in south Texas nutria, a rodent that was brought in for fur, are devastating our wetland areas and destroying habitat for our native species.  Non-native fish, introduced for sport fishing, make it impossible for native species to survive in some of their traditional habitats. Often, native fish are can exist only through temporary stocking programs and they are not able to become reestablished in their traditional range. So, while I distrust human wisdom, I also know that to ensure wild diversity, we need to manage the noxious invasives that threaten our native wildlife.

It seems fitting to write about this issue at the close of Garden for Wildlife month. Every little thing that we do to help the native species of our beautiful continent survive is a good thing.  As habitat becomes more and more scarce it becomes more and more important for people to make sure that their gardens, their neighborhoods and their towns plant for the species that live and pass through there and insure that invasive species do not become established.

For more information on invasive species in the US and what you can do about them you can go to the US Department of Agriculture.

The USDA also has a link to lists in Canada, Australia and Europe.

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