All week on Absolute Michigan and Michigan in Pictures we’re going to highlight invasive species. Last week Laura Bien of the Ann Arbor Chronicle published an article on a historical invader in Michigan titled In the Archives: Fluffy Sparrow Heads. It begins:
In the late 19th century, an interloper was committing thievery across Michigan.
Glimpsed now here, now there, the miscreant evaded capture, flitting away. Finally in the late 1880s the state responded to residents’ outrage and levied a bounty on the culprit’s head.
Its tiny, fluffy head: the offender was the English or house sparrow.
â€œThis detestable bird is an imported resident,â€ said Charles Chapman in his 1881 â€œHistory of Washtenaw County.â€ The English sparrow had been introduced in Brooklyn in 1852 in the hope that it would eat harmful insects. It quickly spread across the continent. Wikipedia notes that today it is the world’s most widely distributed wild bird.
Chapman continued: â€œA few pair first made their appearance here in 1873; the streets of Ann Arbor are now overrun with them, and they are gradually making their way to the country. Wherever they locate they drive out the martin, blue-bird, swallows â€¦ They are a seed-eating bird, and in portions of Europe do great damage to the crops of the farmer.â€