Soon after the first house sparrows were released in Brooklyn, New York in 1850 folks realized this seemingly gentle bird was actually contributing to the demise of eastern bluebird populations across the country. When house sparrows and bluebirds competed for the same nesting cavity invariably, the house sparrow won out.
Later house sparrows earned the reputation of stealing food from a number of native birds. This behavior is known as kleptoparasitism.
If house sparrows frequent your seed feeders, it is only a matter of time before you will witness this bizarre behavior. Backyard feeder watchers have reported watching house sparrows plucking seeds from the bills of a number of species of birds including red-winged blackbirds, northern cardinals, and common grackles.
Away from our feeders, American robins are often the victims of this odd behavior. House sparrows are known to stand alongside American robins as they hunt a lawn for earthworms. As soon as a robin lunges forward and pulls a wriggling worm from the soil, the house sparrows swoop in, grab the prize, and fly away.
Others have actually seen house sparrows following robins carrying food to their nests. Once there they literally take food out of the mouths of the robins’ hungry nestlings.
It is amazing what you can see when you just take the time to watch.
If you have seen house sparrows or other birds practice kleptoparasitism, I would love for you to share your sighting with me.