Sandy, Bedfordshire: The house sparrows are busy caring for their young, but can still find time to mate dozens of times a day

Lolling in the shade under a hazel bush, I had become the inadvertent eavesdropper on a private conversation. Out of the canopy came a whispered “brrr” whirr of wings and then the soft sounds of sparrow seduction, a love song of tenderness that was scarcely imaginable from a bird known for its strident chirps.

Gentle, soothing, piteous peeps drifted down, an intimate dialogue that was both charming and disarming. I caught a glimpse through the sparrows’ bower and saw the female, mouth agape, wings a-flutter. The male rode her for a second or two only. House sparrows may mate up to 40 times a day, but it’s always a quickie.

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