To: "Cas and LISA Liber (& family)" <>, "Messages Birding-aus" <>
Subject: sparrows
From: "Ricki Coughlan" <>
Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2006 07:49:57 +1100
G'day nature lovers
I'm not aware of any studies on this, but the increase in Pied Currawongs in recent decades may well be placing the same sort of pressure on sparrow popuations in urban Sydney as Collared Sparrowhawks may be doing in the ACT. However, we should consider too that sparrowhawks are present in a number of country towns across Australia and many of those towns are now strongholds for our little brown feral friends.
The spread of Indian Mynahs, which compete for similar nesting and food resources, may play a part in falling numbers of sparrows. The same may be true of European Starlings which also appear to be declining in areas of urban Sydney which are favoured by the Indian Mynah. I have noted that the starlings are still also quite abundant in those country areas where Indian Mynahs are not yet present too.
Somebody cited the recent study in the UK which demonstrated insect declines during critical breeding stages for the House Sparrow. This may be the cause of the House Sparrow's decline in the UK but it may not be the same cause here (that's not to say that it may be too, as we have no studies on this in Australia and who bothers to study declines in feral birds here?).
It's my personal guess that birds such as Pied Currawongs are painted as big bogeymen of many small bird species without sufficient justification or research into all the factors for their declines in urban habitats. The same could well be true for Indian Mynahs (but the presence-absence thing is causing me to do a little finger pointing in this instance). However, there could me many subtle elements at play here and conjecture will do little to clear these matters up without proper research.
I find myself oddly pleased when I see excellent numbers of feral House Sparrows in our country towns these days. Apart from the fact that they are a delightful and fascinating species, it's good to know that we are keeping them alive in case they become extinct in the UK. Perhaps one day we can return thousands of these charming chappies to Europe once they have resolved whatever issues it was which caused that possible extinction. Imagine the utter rapture of our friends from England were we to help them to bring the House Sparrow back! Meanwhile, I feel that we should jelously and carefully guard these precious little fellows in what has become (whether we like it or not) our great southern Noah's Ark.
Happy birding
Ricki Coughlan
Sydney, Australia
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