The Sparrow in Montreal – The Montreal Daily Witness, Mar. 11, 1875
We have had frequent communications, some for and some against these little strangers of late, but the conclusions arrived at appear to be rather premature. If we may judge by the conclusions of scientific observation, sparrows should be welcome visitors, and their appearance in our streets during the long winter, when no other birds will abide with us, is looked upon with favour, particularly by people hailing from the mother country. The severe and unusually long cold spells of the winter must have been very trying to the feathery tribe generally, and the sparrow in particular. For several days during the severe frost, not one of these birds was to be seen, but now that it is getting mild they are making their appearance all over the city. The neighbourhood of Viger Garden is very much enlivened by these little creatures flitting about and chirping amongst the trees. The gardener evidently understands the care of these birds as he was straw, or “thatch”, as it is called in the old country, prepared for their reception. It is astonishing to see how closely they keep in their little domiciles during the severe weather, and, as soon as the sun’s rays appear, they come out in full force to devour the ova that remain in fruit and ornamental trees, since last fall.
Last summer the gardens suffered little in comparison to some five of six years ago, when both fruit and ornamental trees, in and around the city, were completely stripped of their beautiful green foliage and fruit by a legion of caterpillars which infested both town and country. The long thread-like worms that much such a havoc in New York and Brooklyn with ornamental trees, and fell upon ladies’ bonnets whilst passing through the streets, have totally disappeared since the advent of the sparrow, and it is generally conceded there that whatever damage they may do the grain crops, as alluded to in a communication which appears in to-day’s issue, is immeasurably counterbalanced by their usefulness as insect and worm-destroyers.
It will be remembered that a sparrow controversy prevailed in England some years ago, and, to set the matter at rest, a scientific gentleman had several of these birds killed and opened, with the almost invariable result of finding their little crops filled with insects and worms, thus refuting their traducers. Another plea in favor of the sparrow and other small birds is going the rounds of the European press at present, from which we copy the follow extract:
“A French scientific writer ascribes the rapid spread of the vidium and the phylloxers, the two latest forms of vine disease in that country, to the scarcity of small birds.”
The fact that such a controversy is possible about facts within such easy reach, goes to show that, although this is far before all others, an age of close observation of nature, a certain knowledge of even the simplest and most practical facts is far from general.