Eurasian Sparrows and China’s Four Pests Campaign, 1958-1960

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.

Eurasian sparrow (passer montanus) (CCO)

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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The campaign against the Eurasian sparrow sent Beijing citizens outdoors to bang on pots and pans so as to prevent the swallows from lighting to rest — many died from exhaustion. Nests, made in pockets and holes, were found and destroyed and, of course, eggs broken. When the some of the birds succeeded in finding protected space along Beijing’s embassy row, soldiers sought access to continue the hunt. Much to their credit, the Polish ambassadorial staff refused to allow access to sparrows seeking sanctuary there.

Within two years, the Chinese state had learned an unfortunate lesson from the attempted extermination of the Eurasian sparrow: the sparrow’s absence caused severe ecological imbalance, harming rather than improving the Chinese food supply. While Chinese ornithologist Tso-hsin Cheng pointed out that sparrows eat more insects than grain, alarmingly, it took the swarming of locusts and their consuming rice crops for the Chinese authorities to understand that removing them meant removing the most successful predator of locusts! The locust swarms further exacerbated the negative consequences of the Great Leap Forward’s poorly conceived agricultural reforms.

By 1960, Chairman Mao removed the sparrow from the Four Pest Campaign’s target list, substituting them with bedbugs instead.

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More Pigeon Development: Days 8 & 12

Thanks again to Ayou Hadidi (FB) (@ayoub.hadidi (IG)) for furnishing yet more of his careful photos of the young pigeons hatched to the pigeons outside their home.

Above are photos of the chick at eight days with the hen. Notice how comfortable the mother pigeon is with Ayoub’s presence.

At twelve days, the chick is noticeably bolder and stronger.

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Hand-raising a Macaw for Free Flight

Thanks to Chris Biro of Libertywings.com for allowing us to share this helpful and illustrative video of initiating free flight with a hand-raised macaw.

The First Three Days in the Life of a Pigeon

Thanks to Ayoub Hadidi (FB), administrator of Bird Squad group, for this intimate portrait of the hatching of a pigeon chick and its first three days of development.

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