Before you and Mrs. Action Line hang up your blaze orange for the season, I need help with a quirk discovered while reading the paper and eating my oatmeal. In the Herald’s “Hunting Guide,” I see that Colorado has a year-round open season on sparrows. Imagine my amazement knowing I’ve let this small game (very small) go unharvested for years. I’ve been filling the birdfeeder without realizing it could be a bait station. I also need help with recipes for enjoying wild sparrow. Please advise. Sign me, Kellum N. Grillum
Orange might well be the new black, but Mrs. Action Line wouldn’t be caught dead wearing that hunter-safety hue.
And it has nothing to do with sports afield.
“Good heavens, no orange!” she exclaimed. “I’m a ‘spring.’ So that color makes me look like a corpse.”
Duly noted when hunting for Mrs. Action Line’s holiday gifts. Ix-nay on the orange-ay.
Then Action Line realized it was time to shoot the breeze, so to speak, with our good friend Joe Lewandowski, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
We could kill two birds with one stone – first, catch up on petty local gossip and then find out why Colorado encourages bagging birds smaller than a plump fig.
Not all sparrows are in the crosshairs.
“If anyone plans to stalk the wily sparrow, make sure you know your quarry,” Joe advised. “It’s limited to the house sparrow, also called the English sparrow.”
Two other birds can be hunted year round with no limit: Eurasian collared doves and European starlings.
Colorado has declared these three non-native avian thugs as “invasive species.”
The scourge of house sparrows and starlings can be blamed on a misguided 19th century New York club. Its members released into the U.S. every bird species mentioned by Shakespeare.
Now there are hundreds of millions of house sparrows and starlings hither and yon.
Meanwhile, the collared dove was introduced in the Bahamas in the 1970s. It flew to Florida, befouled the joint, and spread across the country at a furious rate.
Maybe we should build a wall to keep out English and Eurasian birds and make American nest boxes great again.
It’s easy to hunt sparrows, starlings and collared doves in Colorado.
“No license or Habitat Stamp is required to hunt invasive species; however, hunters must have and carry with them a hunter education card,” reads state regulations.
Find out more at http://cpw.state.co.us.
Meanwhile, now that the Thanksgiving turkey has been converted into soup, it’s time to prepare a sumptuous bird of a different feather.
Here’s an actual recipe for sparrows. It’s from the 1769 book The Experienced English Housekeeper:
“Mix half a pint of good milk with three eggs, a little salt, and as much flour as will make a thick batter. Put a lump of butter rolled in pepper and salt in every sparrow, mix them in the batter and tie them in a cloth, boil them one hour and a half. Pour melted butter over them and serve it up.”
For Durango multicultural foodies, behold a bird dish from (ironically) Turkey called karatavuk yahnisi, or starling stew with olives:
“Fry some chopped turnips and carrots. Add a little stock and a glass of red wine. Place some starlings or other small birds in the pan. Add a thin purée of boiled potatoes mashed with beaten eggs, dry mustard, and some stock and a little beer. Cover with stock and cook for about 30 minutes, adding some ripe olives near the end.”
You can find this and other alternative-meat recipes inside Unmentionable Cuisine, an epic 1979 cookbook by Calvin Schwabe.
But before boasting loudly about the progressiveness of exotic proteins, be aware that Chef Schwabe’s tome includes detailed recipes for cats and dogs.
At which point you might have to eat crow.
Email questions to email@example.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if a vegetarian diet is looking better all the time.