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House Sparrows Can Open Doors

These highly adaptable birds have made a living around humans for thousands of years.
© Matthijs Dubbeldam CC View Large

House Sparrows are ingenious birds that have learned a highly specialized skill: how to open automatic doors. House Sparrows have been seen activating electric-eye sensors to fly into restaurants, supermarkets, and home supply stores.

What will they be up to next?

Full Transcript



House Sparrows Open Doors

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

Most experts rate jays, crows, parrots, and mynas among the most intelligent birds — especially as problem-solvers or talkers. But there’s at least one ingenious bird that’s learned a highly specialized skill: how to open automatic doors.

[Automatic door sound]

It’s the House Sparrow — a highly adaptable bird that’s made a living around humans for thousands of years.

[House Sparrow - House Sparrow songs and calls, ]

In the early 1990s, House Sparrows in Auckland, New Zealand, were seen activating a door’s electric-eye sensor to fly into a shopping mall. Another sparrow in Auckland, perhaps showing a more refined aesthetic, learned to hover in order to open two consecutive sets of doors to enter the cafeteria of an art gallery. Other House Sparrows in New Zealand and nearby Australia were seen opening doors to a factory cafeteria, a fast-food restaurant, and two different supermarkets.

[House Sparrow - House Sparrow songs and calls, ]

Not all the smart House Sparrows live in the Southern Hemisphere, however. In the US, some trigger doors into big-box home supply stores to peck at seed spilled from bags.

Who knows, maybe they’ll learn to open the seed bags, too.

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.

Head over to BirdNote’s website for photos, videos, and more about the birds you heard today. Plus find links to lots of scientific resources and a whole section for teachers too! Start at

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by William Gunn.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
© 2018 Tune In to   September 2018   Narrator: Michael Stein
ID#  HOSP-06-2018-09-20   HOSP-06


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