Time to stick my hand into the lucky dip of our incoming Google Searches once more and see what comes to the top…
HOW ARE THERE SO MANY OF YOU?
This will never do. Let’s have another look.
Ah, now that’s a good question.
The gorgeous sparrow tram, or to give its scientific name, Passer tranviari, has got to be one of my favourite birds. Common across in most cities in continental Europe, P. tranviari is surprisingly elusive; although they travel along fixed foraging paths every day, crossing the city back and forth in search of seeds and insects, few people ever actually see this rare bird.
The largest of the passerines, a varied group that includes warblers, thrushes, duewags, wrens and tits, P. tranviari makes its nests in large, open spaces. The elaborate nests, made usually of wood and strands of metal, can house a whole clutch of birds in comfort and warmth.
They mate after a drawn out courting ritual, in which the male and female follow each other back and forth for many hours or days. The gestation period for P. tranviari is usually long and drawn out. The female only lays a few eggs, but they are remarkablely immune from the predations of cuckoos compared to most passerines.
The usual song of P. tranviari is the familiar bri-ri-ri-ri-ri-rin heard echoing through the streets at any time of day, while their alarm call is a strident baaaaaaaaaaahn. The plumage of P. tranviari varies widely depending on location and age – experienced spotters can tell the origin of P. tranviari, and even its migration routes, purely from the markings on its side, head and rear.
Photos of P. tranviari are hard to find, even on the internet, but as luck would have it, I caught a very rare snap shot of a male and a female courting while on a visit to Munich recently. Here it is:
I hope this has been an illuminating glimpse into the life of one of Europe’s lesser known birds. Next time you go into town, take a camera and a pair of binoculars with you. Perhaps you too will see… a sparrow tram.