They call him Mr Spar­row

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - SPARROWS -

An en­gi­neer by pro­fes­sion, J De­nis Sum­mers-Smith chose house spar­rows as an am­a­teur study sub­ject in 1947 be­cause they could be seen on his doorstep. Over 70 years, the mod­est, self-taught or­nithol­o­gist has pro­duced a plethora of books, ar­ti­cles and sci­en­tific pa­pers about the birds, and has ob­served mem­bers of the spar­row fam­ily world­wide. His best-known book, called sim­ply The Spar­rows, is a clas­sic mono­graph in the highly col­lectible Poyser se­ries.

“House moves were con­tin­gent on the pres­ence of breed­ing house spar­rows,” De­nis Sum­mers-Smith wrote, and his stud­ies were con­ducted “be­fore breakfast, on business travel, in of­fices, sta­tions and even from the den­tist’s chair”. Re­tire­ment brought the op­por­tu­nity for more spar­row work which, now in his late 90s, he con­tin­ues in north-east Eng­land. As he has said: “Spar­rows live in our ur­ban habitat, and if some­thing is hap­pen­ing to them it is high time we knew what it is, be­cause it may be hap­pen­ing

to us later.”

Or­nithol­o­gist De­nis Sum­mer­sSmith – the last word on all things spar­row.

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