08 April, 2011

Spirulino our rescued sparrow and friends

EDITED January 2014
by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity

Found at the recycling depot in January 2010. The Ungardener has been helping to sort at the town’s fledgling recycling project. There he saw a little bird hopping around. He brought him food and water. But he sees there is something wrong with his wing. He cannot fly. When the door was open, out he hopped to the open field.  Not sure if the wing is broken. Or something attacked and injured him. He brought him home. He is a commonorgarden house sparrow. Invasive from Europe. Our bird book says they were first seen in Piketberg in 1962.

Spirulino's home

By day we put him in the shade of the mountain ash trees. And our garden sparrows came over to say hi, who are you, and what ARE you doing in there??? Synchronicity caused the Ungardener to bump into someone who was chatting about growing tomatoes. My organic gardening books say plant basil. Oh and this bird, needs a cage. New friend has an old cage, and Spirulino has a new home.

The Ungardener has put in four twiggy perches for him. Went straight to the top perch. From where he hawks tiny insects, clinging to the bars of the cage, like an acrobat. The dinner monitor, has had to be taught, with a water spray, that, that is OUR bird. Chocolat lies languidly on the branch, like a leopard, and waves one paw at us, hullo, howzit? Unless, we have the water spray, when he appears in a blur at our feet. Cat in the tree? Sure wasn’t me!

Then there was the fiscal shrike. Black and white, somewhat larger than him. They have the ‘charming’ habit of catching lizards. And if not hungry right now, will impale the lizard on a convenient thorn tree or barbed wire fence. And an equally ‘charming’ territorial habit of treating caged birds the same way, if, they can get at them. But his visitors are mostly friendly. Our garden sparrows, the sunbirds who spend most of their time hawking insects in the ash trees, and of course the weavers. Doves, pigeons and starlings. Swallows high above in the evening.

Young, but not a baby. Grew into his black cock sparrow bib, but sadly one wing has feathers and hangs, the other looks like a victim of … and is a stump ending at the elbow. Hops like a kangaroo, but, can’t fly.


How to keep a wild sparrow in a cage? How to give him quality of life, which is anyway better than being eaten by Chocolat, the dinner monitor. Or by the fiscal shrike, ever hopeful that he will find a way into the cage. Spirulino is unconcerned by the cat, hasn’t learnt that. But when the fiscal shrike lands on his cage, Spirulino withdraws to his bedroom, We Are NOT At Home.

Here in our garden Spirulino lives

His cage is upcycled and a fair size. Perches installed by the Ungardener are real branches from the garden; perfect for polishing his beak clean after a nice juicy … He has cuttlefish, which are eagerly shared by his wild friends. They all eat wild bird seed. The friends get fed twice a day. Around 4 in the afternoon they line up in the ash tree like Christmas tree baubles, and complain vociferously if their dinner is late. Oy you, service!!! And Happy Hour is pretty deafening.

with friends

lots of friends

Thanks to Lee at Birds of Eden, we are adding carrots, broccoli, beetroot. Spirulino loves his mozzarella, but that is an occasional treat. Gets a little of whatever fruit we have, for some variety. And this little bird gets bigger and stronger, each time room service removes, and then replaces him, when his cage is cleaned. He yells at the Ungardener and tries to peck him. Being a seed eater, he shows willing, but doesn’t draw blood.

dining out

coming in to land. Look at that tail!

Our little bird spends his day in the ash tree, with lots of friends, and the odd enemy – who is greeted with screams of rage by his flock. When it is too hot, too cold, too wet, too windy – we move him to the verandah. On the edge with sun and the breeze thru his feathers, or tucked in the corner with the Ficus if the weather is fierce. Winter nights he is sheltered in the laundry.

Happy Hour

with a red eye

Close friends are Cape sparrows, house sparrows, Cape weavers and masked weavers, pin tailed whydahs. Passing acquaintances are sunbirds, wagtails, doves and pigeons, starlings, swallows. There are mousebirds and white eyes. Even passing egrets and guineafowl, who leave a feather as a calling card. Once there was a heron, a black stork. Hadedah ibis on the commuter run overhead. Floating high on the thermals, birds of prey, in search of lunch.

Spirulino RIP October 2014

Nightingale Island story moved to Elephant's Eye on False Bay in March 2014

Pictures by Jurg and Diana,
words by Diana of Elephant's Eye
- wildlife gardening in Porterville,  
near Cape Town in South Africa   
(If you mouse over brown text, it turns shriek pink. 
Those are my links)


  1. Good of you to look after the little thing. I praise your compassion. As for the ship, it seems like whatever we touch we ruin sometimes, doesn't it?

  2. Spirulino reminds me a little of Frodo. Lots of wild friends, in Frodo's case the birds, bunnies, squirrels etc., and an odd enemy or two. Looks like your little sparrow has a wonderful quality of life, and I can just imagine the din around happy hour. The poor Rockhoppers, I used to work as an oil spill responder, and the amount of work, and resources it takes to save even just a few, is remarkable. Penguins are usually resilient, but as you point out, this hit at the wrong time of year, and it's so sad to see.

  3. That was a fantastic post for your little friend.
    And you took great pictures. Bravo.

  4. What a wonderful bird story. You're very kind and so considerate of the little bird's needs. I like it that he has friends all about him. It must make him even more content.

    Oil and disaster just go hand in hand. When will we learn?

  5. Loved the story about your little foundling and all his friends. I think he is living a pretty good life. The oil problem is in our (the consumer's) hands. No government or nonprofit or corporation is going to fix it as long as we demand it. We have only ourselves to blame for what is happening on Nightingale Island.

  6. Found you through your comment at Muddy Boot Dreams. I am Brenda with the Cozy Little Shoppes, and I do LOVE your birds. I am a bird-lover as well. Just getting ready to post some pics I took today. Happy birding!

  7. Your sweet little sparrow has captured my heart! So glad he captured yours as well! Lovely post, Diana!

  8. He is living such a better life with you, and most likely would not have survived in the wild for long. Great that he has friends over to visit for "tea".

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  9. Hi, Diana.

    I often see you in Ari's blog and you have commented on my blog as well, but this is the first time that I really took a long look at your site. (Sorry I was so slow in doing that but I am spreading my wings these days and taking on more blogs, hopefully I can keep up.) And, I am loving what I see. I am a nature lover myself and usually take walks to refresh my mind and relieve myself of work stress. So, I am really glad I finally decided to come over.

    You are one compassionate person. What you did to this wonderful fellow here is amazing and I am happy I got here.

    Kudos to you, Diana! Enjoy your weekend. ;)

  10. Loved this post, Diana. What a great compromise to keep a wild bird safe and happy enough to sing in his cage. In China, bird keepers take their charges for morning 'strolls' to meet other birds and have fresh air. Perhaps Spirulino would like to see some sights too. Very charming shots of his feathered friends.


  11. What an interesting story. I wouldn't have thought of keeping a wild bird in a cage. Good for you, and for him. I hope he continues to get stronger. The pic of his 'friends' on the cage is priceless!

  12. What beautiful pictures you have here. Wes Towers left a comment on my latest blog post. (We're talking about following bloggers outside of our niche.) He mentioned how refreshing your stories are. It's nice to meet you. I agree with Wes!

  13. To Wes and Sherryl, welcome to new visitors from my techie Ari Herzog sector of blogs I read!

    To my readers mostly from Blotanical - I love your comments - they bring my posts to vivid life. We often hear Spirulino in his cage - reminds me of Sybil in Fawlty Towers - And then ... what did you do ... OH he never! ... a long involved excited conversation with one of his friends ;~)

  14. What a wonderful post - it's so cool that your rescued bird and wild birds that hang out w/ him! (Love the 'Happy Hour'!!)

  15. A lovely post with a sad surprise ending... one would think that in this day and age of sophisticated radar and navigation aids ships could avoid islands. grrrr

  16. Spirulino is a fortunate little bird to have found a home with you. Thanks for sharing his story. It must be fascinating to watch him interact with all the other birds.

  17. Dear Diana, I am still laughing at your comment that Spirulino reminds you of Sybil. I can just hear him gossiping with his friends. You are so kind to rescue him. The oil spill is so very upsetting. We really must give up our dependency on oil. P x

  18. Its always sad to see a wild bird in a cage, but she really would have no life in the wild.

  19. Very pretty birds... you are a kind soul, really...

  20. Well done, I have tried to help so many birds over the years which have fallen prey to most probably our own cat. The job would have been made a little easier if I had got hold of a cage. Oil related disasters around our shores have resulted in serious loss of life as well as damage to the environment.

  21. That Spirolino is one lucky bird Diana. I love the way he is often surrounded by friends - seems like a pretty good quality of life, though anything beats becoming a cat snack. The oil spill - and attendant rat problem - is shocking but sadly not surprising. We are so very good at wrecking portions of this wonderful planet. On the upside, today I learnt that we are trialling a bee corridor idea in the UK, to provide nectar "roads" for pollinators to move across large areas. Since the process will require co-operation between lots of different land owners to ensure no gaps and safe routes, I am madly encouraged to hear it is going ahead. Sometimes we behave well.

    PS Still thinking about your Blotanical and prizes post...

  22. great pics! and well done for saving spirulino...


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Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.

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