When sparrows go bad

by Bill Ralston / 17 January, 2013
Sparrows may be small, but they can be savage.
Seagull cartoon by Steve Bolton
A dog chasing a seagull is like a human buying a Lotto ticket. You know you haven’t got a chance, but somehow you just can’t resist /cartoon by Steve Bolton.


The Attack of the Killer Sparrow. It sounds like the title of a splatter movie, but it happened to me and, may I say, I got bugger-all sympathy after suffering this trauma.

It began on a hot summer’s morning recently when I was sitting on the deck, wearing a rather fetching panama hat and reading an ancient dog-eared Wilbur Smith novel I’d found on the bach’s bookshelf. The scene was idyllic.

Waves were rolling gently onto the golden sand beach in front of me, there was the cheering sound of happy children splashing in the nearby lagoon and the temperature was just cresting a slow-cooking 30ºC.

As I turned the page to discover whether the hero would be impaled on assegai hurled by an enraged Matabele warrior, a streak of grey flashed past at eye level in my peripheral vision. There was a “thunk” on the glazed french door behind me and suddenly I could see nothing but a grey flapping blur in front my face, which was being scratched and battered by wings and tiny clawed feet.

I worked out later that a sparrow had taken a bad trajectory that meant it flew into the glass, ricocheted back over my shoulder and became trapped between Wilbur Smith and the wide brim of my hat. At the time, engrossed in the book, I had a bad moment thinking Mandingo or whatever his name is was about to spit-roast me out on the veldt. Realising my error, I calmly stood and ushered the bird away.

“You screamed like a girl,” suggested a mate who was lying, reading, nearby.

“Did not.”

“It was a high school-girlish shriek,” he maintained, giving a piercing rendition of his version of how the event sounded, accompanied by a strange whirling-dervish dance with flailing arms and hopping legs. There was no solicitude from anyone present.

“Sparrow Boy!”

“The attack of the killer sparrow! Watch out, a fantail might get you next!”

“For God’s sake!” said a neighbour. “Don’t tell anyone it was a sparrow. Say it was an albatross at least!”

It was, it seemed, an issue of scale. Had I been attacked by an albatross or, indeed, a pit bull terrier or shark, I would have been accorded some sympathy. Sparrow attacks merit nothing but mirth and derision.

It was the same the day before when a seagull crapped on me and Wilbur Smith. Great hilarity all round. Had it been something larger defecating on me, like a cow or a passing Mongrel Mob member, I would have got sympathy. Come to think of it, had the situation been reversed and I’d somehow managed to sneak up behind the seagull and taken a dump on it, I would have been reviled and sent to Coventry. It’s fine for the seagull to do it, but not for me. That is a double standard, I would have thought.

Animals tend to dislike me. Years ago while travelling in dear old Wilbur country, I emerged from a game-park lodge to find a troop of baboons hooting and hollering their hostile contempt at me from the roof. Many aimed their disgusting bottoms in my direction, some spat and at least one tried to pee on me. Totally inappropriate behaviour, I would have thought, even for wild animals.

When I think back on it, although a variety of beasts have had a go at me, it’s the birds that are the worst. Over the years I have been attacked by various magpies, geese, chooks, turkeys, a duck and now that damned sparrow.

Their common aggression is clear proof of the generally accepted theory that they are descended from dinosaurs. In the case of the sparrow, don’t be fooled by its small size. I suggest its ancestor was a particularly nasty breed of pterodactyl.
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