Tuesday, March 29, 2016


During dim sum with friends at Sai Kung, Hong Kong, a small party of Tree Sparrows were hanging around the lunch table. At first I "accidentally" dropped a few sesame seeds on the floor and in a quick rush, 4 or 5 sparrows grabbed them. After that more crumbs made their way onto the floor and soon the sparrows grew a little bolder. At first they were right under our feet but then began perching higher up on one of the chairs and also on the fencing between the eating area and the beach. This is where I drew and painted the individual seen above. I noticed how dark they were as soon as I saw them. Compared to other Tree Sparrows in Hong Kong, the pale areas around the face should be white and the breast a slightly warm grey whereas on these birds, they were much darker. On some birds, their plumage looked very oily and I came to believe that this (and their darker plumage) was from their diet. We often saw them on the cart that carried the used dishes and they were into what ever was left over from previous meals, including the small dishes of sauce that always accompanies many of the dishes served during dim sum. Mostly these sauces are soy based but there is also "ketsup" - similar to soy but with a sharper more vinegary taste - probably like HB sauce. Anyway, my point is that all of these sauces are very dark and much like shrimps give flamingos their feather coloring, I felt that this was darkening the plumage of this small party of Tree Sparrows. This painting was done in watercolor on Canson paper, size 7" x 5" (18cm x12cm). I titled it "Passer montanus soysauceus". Private collection.


john said...

A wonderful little painting. In Bangkok, many of the birds are significantly darker than their counterparts outside of Bangkok, especially Streak-eared Bulbuls. I assumed it was caused by air pollution. Maybe diet is the real cause.

John Holmes said...

"soysauceus" indeed - it's a saucy little beast.

Jeremy Pearse said...

Thanks, this was a fun painting to do and glad for once that I didn't really have to struggle with it.