Micro-Season: “The Sparrow Builds Her Nest” (2023)

We have entered the micro-season of “The Sparrow Builds Her Nest ” This is the first micro-season of the mini-season of Spring Equinox. All the micro-seasons within Spring Equinox are:

  • The Sparrow Builds Her Nest (Mar 20 -Mar 24)
  • The First Cherry Blossoms (Mar 25 – Mar 29)
  • Thunder Raises its Voice (Mar 30 – Apr 03)

These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others.  No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for exploring the world around you. 

To celebrate this season, we will learn about sparrows and read seasonal haiku by Basho, Issa, Buson, and Shiki. 

The Sparrow

The term “sparrow” refers to small, mainly seed-eating birds, that have conical bills.  All sparrows are a part of the taxonomic order Passeriformes.  Birds in the order Passeriformes are sometimes called “perching birds”.  

Sparrows are separated into two major families: Old World Sparrows and New World Sparrows.

Old World Sparrows

Old World Sparrows, also known as true sparrows, are often described as small, brown-gray birds with short tails and stubby beaks. They are part of the Passeridae bird family and indigenous to Europe, Africa, and Asia. However, Old World Sparrows are now common in many other parts of the world including the Americas and Australia.  

There are 35 species of Old World Sparrows including the House Sparrow, the Rofous Sparrow, the Rock Sparrow, and the Parrot-billed Sparrow. McGill University has compiled a complete list of Old World Sparrows on its wiki page.(2,3,4)

House Sparrow: Photo by Rhododendrites
House Sparrow: Photo by Rhododendrites

New World Sparrows

New World Sparrows are part of the Passerellidae family, within the super-family of Emberizidae, within the order of Passeriformes.  These birds are often described as being small, brown or gray in color, with conical bills and distinctive head patterns.  

Although birds in the New World Sparrow family share the name “sparrow”, they are actually more closely related to Old World Buntings than they are to Old World Sparrows.  New World Sparrows can be similar in appearance and behavior to finches and some are even identified as finches.(3,5)

There are 138 different species in the New World Sparrow family including the Field Sparrow, Brewer’s Sparrow, and the American Tree Sparrow.  There is a good list of New World Sparrows on Wikipedia.  This list includes pictures of the birds and links to supporting Wikipedia pages. 

Brewer's Sparrow, Cabin Lake Viewing Blinds, Deschutes National Forest, Near Fort Rock, Oregon
Brewer’s Sparrow; Photo by NaturePicsOnline

A Sparrow’s Nest

The construction and location of a sparrow’s nest depends on the habitat where that bird lives.  House sparrows, who tend to live around people and their buildings, construct their nests in holes in buildings or other structures.  Their nests are made of coarse, dried vegetation and then lined with softer materials,

The Eurasian Tree Sparrow, common in Japan, has similar nesting habits to that of the House Sparrow.  Eurasian Tree Sparrows also make their nest in holes in trees, buildings, rocks, or nest boxes.  Their nest are also usually dome-shaped, made of grass and straw, and then lined with feathers, hair, cloth, and plant matter. 

However, the Cassin’s Sparrow lives in dry grasslands with small shrubs, small trees, and cacti.  A Cassin’s Sparrow’s nest is usually set on the ground, or close to the ground, and is made from loose clumps of grass and weeds lined with hair and other finer grasses and roots.  

Sparrow Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com
Photo by Magda Ehlers

Seasonal Haiku

The World Kigo Database tells us that sparrows are non-seasonal and not kigo.  This is because sparrows are common in Japan throughout the year.  

To place a sparrow haiku in springtime, another descriptor needs to be applied.  For example, “baby sparrows”, “little sparrows”, “birds nest”, and “sparrow parents” are all spring kigo.  However, “sparrow in the rice field” would be an autumn haiku, and “first sparrow” would be a New Year’s haiku.  

With all this in mind, let’s read some haiku.


the baby sparrow
chirps inside
the rice gourd
(translated by David G. Lanoue)
new grass--
a sparrow and I
just playing
(translated by David G. Lanoue)
Buddha's birthday--
fat little sparrows
and their parents
(translated by David G. Lanoue)


the sparrow hops
along the veranda,
with wet feet
(translated by R.H. Blyth)


sudden shower -
clinging to blades of grass,
the village-sparrows
(translated by Haldane)


playing in the blossoms
a horsefly . . . don’t eat it,
friendly sparrows! 
(translated by Makoto Ueda)
rice paddy sparrows
shelter in the tea plants
when chased away 
(translated by Jane Reichhold)
Sparrows in eaves, 
mice in celling – 
celestial music. 
(translated by Lucien Stryk

Haiku Invitation

This week’s haiku invitation is to write a haiku or senryu that references the activity of birds in the spring.  Some examples of this activity could be building nests, migrating north, spring bird songs, or even birds in spring snow.   

Share your haiku in the comments below, or post on your own page and link back to this post. I can’t wait to read what you write!  


  1. “Sparrow”; Britannica
  2. “Old World Sparrow”: Wikipedia
  3. “Sparrow”; New World Encyclopedia
  4. “Sparrow”; McGill University
  5. “New World Sparrow”: Wikipedia
  6. “List of New World Sparrow Species”: Wikipedia
  7. “House Sparrow-Life History”; AllAboutBirds
  8. “Cassin’s Sparrow-Life History”; AllAboutBirds
  9. “Eurasian Tree Sparrow”: All About Birds
  10. “Sparrow (suzume)”; World Kigo Database

 Basho’s haiku were retrieved from Matsuo Bashō’s haiku poems in romanized Japanese with English translations.  Issa’s haiku were retrieved from the World Kigo Database and David G. Lanoue’s HaikuGuy.com. Buson’s haiku was retrieved from World Kigo Database.  Shiki’s haiku was retrieved from NeverEndingStory Blog.

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60 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “The Sparrow Builds Her Nest” (2023)

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  1. Mark another throughly well researched piece! Just enjoyed reading through and recalling my childhood days seeing our native small birds flying in groups and making their nests in the grasses on the hillsides. Whenever they flew past, they would make these small “winu” sounds. The native people call them “winus” after their sound. When coming to the city, I am only familiar with the popular sparrows. We never had them in our country but brought through ship containers. It Just gets interesting reading your story which now I know we have many species! 🌹🐦🐦

    1. HI Joanna, Thank you so much for sharing that story of the winus birds. It sounds like a wonderful memory. I am glad that you are enjoying the post. I hope you have a great weekend and thanks for the ongoing support.

  2. House Sparrow, the ultimate cosmopolitan. Once listening to an NPR interviewer speaking with a woman in Mumbai, I could hear the chirps of House Sparrows in their background — the same chirps coming from the eaves of our old house in Ohio.

    1. Thanks you for the kind words! Your support is very much appreciated and I am glad that you are enjoying the posts.
      And your haiku! A very thought-provoking piece. Thank you so much for sharing it. Have a good weekend!

  3. Every March, two sparrow families build their nests under the balcony of one neighbor’s porch in the crawl space, and on the lamp of the porch under it. (I live in a garden condo.)

    And every year, the black rat snake slithers down the maple tree next to the building to feast on sparrow eggs. Balance of nature.

    1. Isn’t interesting how nature operates. Life and death always in fluctuation! Thanks so much for sharing your sparrow story. Have a good weekend!

  4. on the wire
    two turtledoves huddle
    in spring rain

    As most of you know, we have been hit with an extraordinary number of atmospheric rivers in California this year (12 so far). I was watching these turtledoves out my kitchen window (we’re on the 2nd floor) in an absolute downpour. I felt so powerless to help them so I wrote about them instead.

    1. Hi Eavonka,
      Thanks so much for sharing the narrative about this haiku. It adds a another layer to the piece. When reflecting on your work, I think there is something about birds perching that makes a good haiku. I immediately thought of Basho’s – On a withered branch/A crow is perched,/In the autumn evening. (translated by RH Blyth). There is a similar feeling with both. Thanks again for sharing and I hope the storm passes without much damage.

      1. Ooh, is there any compliment more endearing than bringing Basho to mind?

        I admit that I have not read or studied nearly enough about the Masters, but the poem you mentioned is so evocative. I, too, like to write about crows. Though they do not feel quite so sorrowfully romantic as those turtledoves.

    2. Just a lovely ‘ku, Eavonka, but I feel for you, the turtledoves, and your whole state. You’ve certainly had more than your share of rough weather. Good to know there is no climate change or global warming (sarcasm intended). Stay safe (and dry)! ~nan

      1. It’s so strange. This weekend has been beautiful and just like a normal March. But, once again, during the week, another storm front.

        That said, the tornadoes in the South were truly devastating. It’s crazy to be living in the very worries I’ve been yelling about since the 1980s. Feels so awful to have failed at creating any real change.

      2. I feel the same way, Eavonka. People just won’t change their habits to affect any change. I worry for my kids and grandkids…and their kids and grandkids I’ll never know. I do what I can, but it is frustrating watching and hearing about the devastation occurring here, there, and everywhere.

  5. Seeing that it’s Autumn down here I went looking for autumn kigo for sparrows. The Japanese have rice sparrows as a kigo, to represent the sparrows that collect rice grain after harvest. I modified that for the following haiku. It’s seeding time here and grain trucks transporting wheat seed can often drop large piles of grain on the road.

    1. Hi Sean, Thanks for sharing this haiku and your process of connecting the sparrows to the autumn season. We can swap seasonal haiku again in mid September there is also the season of “The Swallows Leave”! Thanks again for sharing your work. Have a good weekend.

  6. Love this post, Mark. Can’t choose a favorite haiku because I love them all! Here’s my contribution:

    light before the dawn
    robin’s lyrical music
    lovely wakeup call

      1. Hi Mark,
        That particular haiku was based on getting up and going out to our enclosed porch one early summer morning (it was still dark at the time) to sleep. As the night turned into day, the wren began singing to his mate, but also to me (at least, that’s the way I interpreted it). Thanks for writing your blog and inspiring us all to write haiku. ~nan

  7. Since we keep getting spring snow, I repurposed this one from winter. I love that sparrows are ubiquitous, and your Buson offering is exquisite.

    Boy with water cup
    steps in deep snow for sparrows
    waiting on the branch

    1. Hi Mary Jo,
      This is a lovely haiku. Thank you for sharing.
      I am always fascinated when I run across across something that I would expect to be seasonal only to find out otherwise. It’s an opportunity to question my assumptions. Thanks again for sharing your work!

    2. I like the kindness of this haiku.
      When I was the primary caretaker for my grands – I always took them on walks and tried to teach them to be kind to all natural things.

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