Thursday, April 19, 2012

"The Five Sparrows"

I don't feed pigeons in parks (or anywhere else) for a number of reasons; a) It's a bad idea, since the more you feed them, the more they multiply, b) they're dirty, c) they're rudely persistent and irritating, d) I don't like them, e) etc. etc.  But I like sparrows, and so when a tiny sparrow landed by my feet (in a park in central Tokyo) the other day and chirped away endearingly, I contemplated the sandwich I was eating and thought maybe it wouldn't hurt to give the bird a piece of the bread.  While thinking about that, the bold chirper sparrow was joined by four quiet companions and I tossed a piece of the bread over, which the bold one took and flew over to some bushes with, and quickly disappeared under them on foot.

This interested me, because I've never fed a sparrow before (or seen one fed), so my point of reference was pigeons and I expected there to be some competition for the bread among the five, with them breaking it into pieces.  A second surprise was that the remaining four birds made no effort to follow the first.  So I tossed another piece of bread down (air-pressure projected it actually, but whatever) and a second bird grabbed that and flew off to a different area of the park from the first bird.  Intrigued, I made another piece of bread available (air-pressure projection means you don't have to get your fingers oily from handing the sandwich outside the wrapper), which was taken by the third bird, who flew off to still another area of the park.  A fourth piece of bread produced the same result with the fourth bird, and at this point, the last bird turned around and looked into the park (where its companions had gone) with what seemed like a "Hey!  Everyone got a piece but me!"... look?  (Maybe "look" works, although it was a combination of "full body movement" and "radio waves".).  So I thought "Hold on!  I've got one for you too!" and air-launched a final piece of bread near that bird, which didn't notice it right away, since it seemed to have gotten the idea that it had missed out on the action.  But then it noticed, and - bread in beak -  it also flew off, to a fifth section of the park, leaving me in peace.

What I really liked about the experience is that they didn't fight over the bread; they went in turns to their own private part of the park to have lunch, and they didn't come back to harass me the way greedy pigeons do.  All of that said - is it normal for sparrows to come asking for a free lunch?

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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