In China, as part of Chairman Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward (1958-1962), Mao labeled four animals as pests and launched the Four Pests Campaign. The Campaign enlisted citizen assistance throughout Beijing to conduct the extermination. The four animals designated were flies, rats, mosquitoes, and the Eurasian sparrow. The Campaign specifically targeted the Eurasian sparrow because, supposedly, one sparrow could consume up to ten pounds of valuable and nourishing grain each year, thus robbing the population of much needed food. Also, the Eurasian sparrow was known to carry disease.

The Eurasian sparrow (passer montanus) is a chunky songbird with short legs and thick bill sporting a chestnut crown, black throat and a black eye patch contrasting distinctively against its white cheeks. Only approximately 5-6 inches long and weighing only about 24 grams, the Eurasian sparrow is about 10% smaller than the common house sparrow. While designated a “songbird,” in truth, this sparrow only chirps in mono-syllables.

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