Passerines or Passeriformes are the largest order of birds in the world. It includes 6,400 species, or more than half of the birds on the planet. We see them climbing on the trunks, flying in groups or chatting at night… Who are these little birds?
A black or red head, a yellow or white crest, green or orange plumage… The chromatic diversity of passerines is fascinating. These birds, which can be found in French gardens and forests, nevertheless have common characteristics that allow us to recognize them.
How to recognize a sparrow?
A passerine is an anisodactyl bird, which means that it has four toes, one of which is located backwards to better grip the branches. Their leg muscles automatically lock when perched, even while sleeping. Members of this large family are also distinguished by their pointed cone-shaped beaks.
Passerines are songbirds, endowed with a particularly developed syrinx (singing organ). They do not swim and are exclusively arboreal: they live in trees. This is where the parents build the nest, where they will lay the colored eggs containing their offspring. Passeriform chicks do not have down and must therefore be peck-fed before they are old enough to fly.
It is not possible, however, to define a sparrow by a single color or a single size, for example. This large family has such a diversity of species that it cannot be reduced to a few immutable physical traits. We will rather note their remarkable collective intelligence, their keen eyesight and their melodious songs.
Which passerines are present in France?
It is impossible to draw up an exhaustive list of passerine species present in France or Europe, as it would be long. Nevertheless, some passeriformes, the most common in our gardens, feeders and meadows, have evocative names:
We could also mention in this list other very famous passerines, such as the lark, which gave its name to a famous nursery rhyme. The canary, the most domesticated bird in the world and made famous by the character of Titi; the oriole; the wren; or the crow, often confused with the raven.
What is the largest sparrow?
The largest sparrow is the big raven », a member of the corvidae family. It measures between 52 and 59 centimeters long, with males having a larger wingspan than females (144 to 160 centimeters). Its weight varies between 700 g and 1.7 kg, although some specimens have reached 2 kg.
We can also count the raven crow among the largest passerines. This other corvid, which lives in the mountains of Ethiopia and Eritrea, measures between 60 and 64 cm long. It weighs about 1.2 kg.
What is the name of the smallest sparrow?
In the passerine order, being small is rather the norm. Considered the smallest of all, the tiny ” Short-tailed Microtyrant » measures only 6.5 cm! Unfortunately, it is impossible to find it in France, it inhabits the Amazon basin. His cousin, the Black-capped Tyrant is not to be outdone since it measures between 6.5 and 7 cm.
On the third step of this fictitious podium, the ” Pygmy Tit » which flies over the forests of Java (Indonesia) cuts a good figure with its 8.5 cm length.
When and how to feed passerines?
A question that we regularly find on the internet: What do passerines eat? It is indeed pleasant to attract these little birds to your garden, where you may have placed a nesting box or a feeder. However, to bring passerines, it is better to know their eating habits.
The League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) recommends feeding passerines only in the winter season (September to March), and especially when snow or frost prevents them from feeding naturally. Outside of this period, avoid feeding them, this promotes the spread of disease.
Here are the best foods for passerines:
- Seed mixes
- Sun-flower seeds
- Vegetable fat bread
- Millet or oat seeds
- Almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts
What sparrow sings at night?
While many passerines share their singing prowess, few are heard at night. In France, one of them has carved out a reputation as a nocturnal singer: the nightingale philomel. During the day, this little bird cannot give voice to its rivals, which is why it tries to seduce females when the sun goes down.
Like the nightingale, the spotted warbler and the lark may sing non-stop all night long. And how not to quote the blackbirdwhose nocturnal song has earned it many ironic expressions in popular culture: “whistle like a blackbird”, “chatter like a blackbird”, “ugly blackbird”, “he’s a fine blackbird”etc.