hedge-sparrow defined in 1930 yearhedge-sparrow - Hedge-Sparrow;
hedge-sparrow - Crown ash-colour with brown streaks; side of neck, throat, and breast bluish grey; back and wings reddish brown streaked with dark brown; breast and belly buffy white. Length, five and a half inches.
Most people know that a sparrow is a hard-billed bird of the finch family, and that the subject of this notice is not a sparrow, except in name. It is, in fact, a soft-billed bird belonging to that large and musical family which includes the nightingale, the redbreast, and the warblers. ' How absurd, then, to go on calling it a sparrow! ' certain ornithologists have said from time to time, and have re-named it the hedge-accentor. But, as Professor Newton has said in his addition to Yarrell's account of the bird, a name which has been part and parcel of our language for centuries, and which Shakespeare used, ' is hardly to be dropped, even at the bidding of the wisest, so long as the English tongue lasts.' Now, as the English tongue promises to last a long time, it seems safest to retain the old and, in one sense, incorrect name. Dunnock is another common name for this species; it is also called shufflewing, from the habit the bird has, when perched, of frequently shaking its wings.
Among our small birds, the hedge-sparrow is regarded with some slight degree of that kindly feeling, or favouritism, which is extended to the robin redbreast, the swallow, and the martin. It is one of the few delicate little birds that brave the rigours of an English winter, and occasionally enliven that dead season with their melody. With the wren and missel-thrush, it is a prophet, in February, of the return of brighter sunshine and lengthening days; and in hard weather it comes much about the house, for the sake of the small morsels of food to be picked up; and, while retaining its sprightliness at such times, it learns to be trustful. It is possible that the feeling or sentiment which no person, not even the most matter-of-fact scientific ornithologist, is quite proof against, is the cause of this species having been a little overpraised in many books about birds. The hedge-sparrow is often spoken of as a very charming little creature, while its song has been described as pleasing, as sweet, and as delightful. All birds are in a sense attractive, and even charming in appearance, but in different degrees, and the plain- coloured dunnock strikes one as being the least attractive among our birds. In the same way, the song may be said to be pleasant because it is a natural sound, and is heard in the open air when the sun shines, when leaves and blossoms are out, and it expresses the gladness which is common to all sentient things. But it has none of the rare qualities which are requisite to make a pleasant sound anything more than a merely pleasant sound.
The hedge-sparrow is a common bird throughout the British Islands - so common as to be familiar to most people, in spite of its shyness and love of concealment. It is pre-eminently a hedge-bird, and in that respect has been well named; even in the most populous districts, and in the suburbs of large towns, where a hedge remains, there the smoke-grey and brown little bird will have its home and make its nest, although it may seldom be able to rear its young. It is a very early breeder, a first brood being often reared in March. As a rule, the nest is placed in the centre of a hedge or thorny bush, three or four feet from the ground; it is made of dry grass and fine roots, and lined with hair; the eggs are five or six in number, bright greenish blue in colour, without spots. Two or three broods are reared in the season.
The alpine accentor (Accentor collaris), a larger species than our hedge-sparrow, which it resembles in colour, is known as a straggler to England from the mountainous districts of Central and Southern Europe.
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