Mouse over links for pictures; click for detail page.

The house sparrow, with its enthusiastic 'chirrup' and bold behaviour, used to be one of our most familiar birds in town and garden but recently it has disappeared from many of our cities and towns. If you look closely, the male in its breeding plumage is also a surprisingly attractive bird.

The house sparrow's country cousin, the tree sparrow, can be distinguished by its chestnut-brown cap. It is also shyer and more secretive, but nowadays it is difficult to find because it is so scarce. It has declined by some 85 to 90% in Essex in the past 25 years, probably a victim of the tidiness of modern farming.

At a quick glance the dunnock, also known as hedge sparrow, can easily be mistaken as a female house sparrow, although it is not strictly a sparrow and its plumage is greyer. It is a hedgerow bird, often seen in gardens walking about beneath the bird table picking up food that the house sparrows have scattered on the ground.

© David Harrison