FW: House Sparrow Disappearance

To: "" <>
Subject: FW: House Sparrow Disappearance
From: "Innes, Angus" <>
Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2019 07:46:34 +0000




Dear Birding-Aus readers,


I am reading the e-mails on Melbourne "Sparrows" with interest and empathy.


 I currently live in (and work out of) London, UK. I copy an article below by the RSPB on the similar phenomenon in London as to its sparrow population. 


Before World War II the Cockney "sparrer" was an essential part of the London scene. Both “sparrers” and Cockneys are now largely gone. You have to go to specific localised parts of London to have a chance to see a House Sparrow. (Tree Sparrows are even more localised). I haven't seen one in Central London since I started work here some years ago. 


By way of contrast, when visiting southern Europe, I frequently see flights of tens of thousands of House Sparrows (often mixed with Spanish Sparrows) coming into city parks at dusk to roost whenever visiting - e.g. Heraklion, Crete, in May last year and Florence, Italy, in August. 


Regards, Angus Innes





In London (UK) House Sparrow numbers fell by 60% between 1994 and 2004. The house sparrow is now on the red list of conservation concern and a priority BAP species. Research in London and Leicester is trying to identify causes of the urban sparrow decline.


To identify environmental factors which have caused or contributed to the decline of house sparrow populations in towns and cities.


Starvation of chicks due to lack of invertebrate prey was found to be the main cause of high levels of chick mortality in a declining suburban sparrow population in Leicester.

Supplementary feeding of mealworms increased nesting success (fledglings produced per nesting attempt) by 55% in Leicester.

Supplementary feeding of mealworms at 66 colonies in London increased breeding success (by 62%) but only had a small positive impact on colony size (adult abundance). Additional supplementary feeding of seed had no impact on the abundance of fledglings or adult sparrows. There seemed to be plenty of unoccupied suitable nesting sites in the London study areas.

Food availability is probably not the main cause of the decline in urban sparrow populations.Management to enhance invertebrate availability in towns and cities is likely to boost house sparrow breeding success. However, such management is unlikely to lead to a recovery in breeding populations.

Planned Work

Further aspects of the study are currently being written up


The following papers have been published: 


Peach, W.J., Vincent, K.E., Fowler, J.A. & PV Grice. 2008. Reproductive success of house sparrows along an urban gradient. Animal Conservation 11: 493-503. 


De Laet, J., Peach, W.J. & Summers-Smith, J.D. 2011. Protocol for censusing urban sparrows. British Birds 104: 255-260.


Peach WJ, Mallord JW, Orsman CJ, Ockendon N, Haines WG. 2013. Testing assumptions of a supplementary feeding experiment aimed at suburban House Sparrows. Bird Study 60: 308-320.


Peach, WJ, Sheehan, DK, Kirby, W.B. 2014. Supplementary feeding of mealworms enhances reproductive success in garden nesting house sparrows. Bird Study 61: 378-385.


Peach, WJ, Mallord, JW, Ockendon, N, Orsman, CJ, Haines WG. 2015. Invertebrate prey availability limits reproductive success but not breeding population size in suburban house sparrows. Ibis 157: 601-613.


Starvation of chicks due to lack of invertebrate prey was found to be the main cause of high levels of chick mortality in a declining suburban sparrow population in Leicester.





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