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Sparrow met his Waterloo in “Domino Day” prep

Filed under: Little Critters on Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Dutch are possibly the most tolerant people in the world when it comes to drugs, prostitution, same-sex marriage and euthanasia. But mess with their dominoes, baby, and you are history.

A sparrow knocked over 23,000 dominoes in the Netherlands, nearly ruining a world record attempt before the bird was shot to death yesterday, the state news agency reported.

The unfortunate bird flew through an open window at an exposition center in the northern city of Leeuwarden where employees of television company Endemol NV have worked for weeks setting up more than 4 million dominoes in an attempt to break the official Guinness World Record for falling dominoes Friday night.

Only a system of 750 gaps in the chain prevented the bird from knocking most or all of the dominoes over ahead of schedule, “Domino Day” organizers were quoted as saying by the NOS news agency.

The bird was shot by an exterminator with an air rifle after it was cornered.

Hapless sparrow unspared after domino debacle,” San Diego Union Tribune, Nov. 15, 2005.

International condemnation fell swiftly on the domino stackers.

Germany: “Death by Domino… It is best not to get between the organizers of “Domino Day 2005″ and their precious tiles. The price? Death, as one sparrow found out.”

Associated Press: “The bird was shot by an exterminator with an air rifle while cowering in a corner.”

Australia: “FOWL PLAY IN DOMINO CHALLENGE

United Kingdom: “Sparrow executed for disturbing dominoes

None were as harsh as the Dutch themselves. No less than 7 organizations have protested the shooting because the sparrow is on the endangered species list. The man who shot the sparrow even received a death threat.

“Is it really necessary to kill a bird that knocked over a few dominoes for a game?” asked a member of one of the Dutch animal protection agencies. “I think they were awfully fast to pull out a rifle. If a person started knocking over a few dominoes they wouldn’t shoot him would they?”

They might have. Apparently everybody involved in Domino Day 2005 was on edge after a local radio station disc jockey offered 3,000 Euros to anyone who could knock down the dominoes before their scheduled toppling on Sunday. Extra security had been hired to protect the dominoes against any radio station fans.

Meanwhile, newspaper headline writers had a good time with this one:

Los Angeles Daily News:Bird knocks over dominoes, meets tragic end for gaffe

Detroit Free Press:Bye, bye, birdie

Scotland’s Daily Record:THE DOMINO EFF-PECKED

I think my favorite commentary came from the international football (soccer) site, Goal.com:

A poor sparrow was shot to death in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, while cowering in a corner, after it flew through an open window and knocked over 23,000 dominoes that were going to be part of a world-record attempt of over 4.3 million dominoes. So what did they do to the Dutch soccer team after they got waxed at home by Italy on Saturday?


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  1. This is a travesty, not just because of the killing of the sparrow, but also because of the apparent inability for those people to think about anything other than their dominoes. They reacted very selfishly, since all they needed to repair the damage done was a few hours extra work. It shows just how sensible, intelligent people can behave irrationally as a group.

    Comment by White Rabbit — 11/17/2005 @ 5:52 am

  2. I couldn’t find a link to the story, but I remember in 1998 the old Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, California was preparing to celebrate its 300th anniversary. Part of the planned festivities included ringing the old mission bell.

    When they climbed up to check the condition of the bell they discovered a nest of owls under it. Ornithologists told the priests the owls wouldn’t be out of the nest until after the celebration date and that moving them would be harmful to the birds.

    So the mission priests decided they would not ring the bell for the celebration! (As I remember it, they waited until the birds were out of the nest, and then held a mini-celebration in which they could ring the bell.)

    Certainly a 300th anniversary is much more important than a yearly attempt to break a domino record, but I think the toll of arranging 4.3 million dominoes prevented the domino stackers from thinking clearly.

    Comment by Bonnie Wren — 11/17/2005 @ 1:54 pm

  3. I’m torn. My animal rights side is all appalled by the bird murder.

    My dark side snickered, though.

    Comment by Pat Kirby — 11/18/2005 @ 9:21 am

  4. I was sad to hear that an animal was killed for flying in and inadvertantly knocking down dominos while it [probably excitedly] looked to escape.
    The adjective ‘cowering’ brought out the truly despicable nature of the action taken.
    The people involved in the killing and the decision to kill the little sparrow should get some creative legal consequence,[eat the bird, work for avian conservation, read stories with moral and ethical underpinnings to young children on weekends for a year– you see ?] as perhaps others involved in the issue (ex. the radio station that offered euros for someone to knock over the dominos before the event, etc.)

    Comment by Ed Wynn — 11/19/2005 @ 4:34 am

  5. I have such a warped sense of humor. I think i would have wet myself if i’d have witnessed the birds setting the domino’s off. It’s like some dramatic moment…the build up…..and climax, then…..”bang”! To have it all destroyed by a bird LOL! I also think that shooting and killing the birds was a cruel thing to do. They were only doing what comes natural. The Dutch never did have a sense of humor!

    Comment by Michelle — 11/19/2005 @ 5:11 am

  6. I was, as an unabashed sparrow lover, deeply effected by this incident. However, judging by all of the media coverage, the “domino effect” will not be quite what they intended.
    Regards, Woody

    Comment by Woody Glenn — 11/20/2005 @ 6:02 pm

  7. I think you are all morons. It is just a bird…

    Comment by Robert — 11/22/2005 @ 6:01 am

  8. sorry you feel that way Robert.
    yes.. just a bird.
    but I think it is the whole ‘innocent life taken’ while in th epursuit of an exercise that was not life and death.
    maybe someday the light will come on for you.

    Comment by Ed Wynn — 11/22/2005 @ 6:13 am

  9. Luke 12:6

    “Are not five sparrows sold for two farhtings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?”

    And, Matthew 10:29

    “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.”

    Comment by W. Dash — 12/31/2005 @ 4:46 pm

  10. So sad to hear about the bird.

    Joe

    Comment by Joe — 12/31/2005 @ 5:36 pm

  11. What’s this world coming to?

    Comment by Jerry — 12/31/2005 @ 5:38 pm

  12. posting nearly 7 years late~ I only heard about this today….. that sparrow was sentenced to death without a trail. Let the punishment fit the crime. For the end he met~ I do hope he was watching from his nest for weeks, in the tree~ outside the window, wondering “what are those stupid humans doing”, watching them put shallow hearts into something so meaningless, getting much enjoyment from their pointless effort while he built his nest for the cold months to come, maybe even deciding that one of those dominoes was a “must have” for the head his down bed… I hope the last thing that crossed his mind was “humans will never learn”

    Comment by Abby — 5/24/2012 @ 6:28 pm

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