Endangered bird species - the House Sparrow
House Sparrows were once common
The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) was once a very familiar sight in British towns and cities and would be a regular visitor to gardens where people fed the birds. Most streets of houses had their own resident colonies of House Sparrows.
House Sparrows used to nest under the eaves of houses and could commonly be heard chirping and seen perched on roofs or flying about city streets. For there not to be sparrows around would have seemed unthinkable years ago but sadly nowadays they have vanished from many places.
House Sparrow photo
Description of the House Sparrow
The House Sparrow is a small and chunky bird with obvious differences between the males and females. Both sexes are coloured with shades of grey and brown but the males have the brighter and bolder markings, especially around their heads and on their wings.
House Sparrows are very social birds and congregate in flocks, communal roosting places and gather to feed together, often in the company of other bird species. The omnivorous House Sparrow will feed on insects, seeds of all kinds and scraps of human food.
House Sparrows can nest in many different places, and besides building their nests under the eaves of houses they will also nest in holes and cracks in walls, in trees, in the old nests of other birds, as well as sometimes taking over nests that are already in use. Sparrows can build their domed nests amongst ivy and creepers on walls and tree trunks as well.
House Sparrows can excavate nesting holes in sandy banks and in the rotten wood of old trees. They will also build their nests in holes in tree trunks. The House Sparrow female usually lays four or five eggs but clutches of as many as 10 have been recorded.
House Sparrows enjoy bathing in water and dust and in gardens with bird baths they are a species that will make use of what is provided for them.
The House Sparrow came originally from the Middle East but has successfully colonised or been introduced to most parts of the world. There are also many subspecies and regional varieties.
House Sparrow singing
Where have all the Sparrows gone?
Although on an international level the House Sparrow is in no danger, this once very common British bird has experienced serious declines in its populations in many places including London. The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) describes the House Sparrow as: "now struggling to survive in the UK along with many other once common birds. They are clearly declining in both gardens and the wider countryside and their recent declines have earned them a place on the Red List."
This is surely a warning sign that all is not well with the ecology of the UK at present, although, exactly why the House Sparrow has so seriously declined in numbers is not known for certain.
Cats have been blamed for catching and killing the little birds, and whilst this is definitely true it cannot account for the very large decrease in their numbers. It has been thought that lack of nesting sites under the eaves of modern houses has given the House Sparrow a very serious problem but again this cannot be why they have become so scarce as the bird is perfectly capable of using alternative means of nesting.
Other suggested reasons for the decline in the once common House Sparrow are diseases and a serious drop in the numbers of insects that the birds feed on due to the widespread use of pesticides. Mobile phone masts are another possible cause of the House Sparrow's declining numbers. It is thought that the electromagnetic radiation produced has damaged the bird's fertility and ability to navigate but this has not been proved.
The decline of this once common bird is probably due to a combination of all the factors stated above. But whatever the reason is for the disappearance of the House Sparrow from so much of its former range in the UK is, the alarm bells are ringing loudly.
Copyright © 2010 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.
House Sparrow links
- House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
House Sparrow, illustrated article.
- British Garden Birds - House Sparrow
Learn about the House Sparrow. Includes pictures, calls and songs.
- The RSPB: House sparrow
House sparrows are noisy and gregarious, often going around together in small flocks. Males have a grey crown, black bib, reddish-brown back streaked with black, and grey breast and belly, while females have brown, streaky backs and are buff below.
- House Sparrow - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia