Bird News | Bird Book | Bird Care | Home
State of the Nations' Birds
Dictionary | Encyclopaedia | Search | Visitor Information

House Sparrow

Passer domesticus

Steep declineFrownFrown

Distribution Britain 2,525 (-5.3%) Ireland 901 (-6.8%)
Numbers breeding: Britain 3,600,000 Ireland 1,100,000
European status: 54,000,000 (9% in Britain and Ireland =3)
British population trend: severely declining (-64% CBC){-58%}
How likely are you to record it? 2,701 squares (60.1%) Ranked 18 [25]

The House Sparrow was very common wherever people lived by the end of the 19th century, although it had only rather recently reached some parts of the west of Wales and north-west of the Scottish mainland. It was already abundant through the outer islands — although the Outer Hebrides had only been fully colonised about 30 years before. This success was despite the presence of many 'Sparrow Clubs' whose sole object was to rid the parish of the pests! While horses were being used for transport, it must have been really easy living for the birds, feeding from spilt grain, straw bedding, even undigested grain in droppings. They probably declined as thatched roofs were replaced and the human population withdrew from remote areas. This is clearly shown by the losses documented in the second Breeding Atlas — particularly from high areas and from the west coast of Ireland. These are not easy birds to record for the CBC but the 25-year decline was 64% and the BBS five-year index dropped (1994-98) 7%. Many people report that 'their' sparrows have gone and figures provided from Kensington Gardens, from Max Nicholson, are quite amazing and very disquieting:

November 19252,603
December 1948885
November 1966642
November 1975544
February 199546

It is suspected that the intensification of agriculture is making a difference in the country but, in the towns, it may be the lack of insect food during the vital days when the nestlings need the extra protein. Typically areas occupied by a 'clan' of House Sparrows will lose their birds quite suddenly and this may sometimes be related to the loss of breeding or roosting sites: for instance, when a building is demolished (or repaired) or an ivy-covered tree cut down or the creeper removed from a wall. More and more people will be seeing less and less spadgers in the future.

Summers-Smith, J.D. 1999 British Wildlife: 10, 381-386.

Search for another Species

From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead

Bird News | Bird Book | Bird Care | Home
State of the Nations' Birds
Dictionary | Encyclopaedia | Search | Visitor Information | Mail to Bird On!
Sponsored by Jacobi Jayne & Company