Apparently, sparrows are in decline; they are birds that I remember from being a little girl, in the trees and hedges full of cheeky little sparrows, chirping away. They just were always there in gardens, parks, in the countryside, just everywhere… but apparently they are in decline.
This is what the RSPB site says : House sparrow numbers were not monitored adequately before the mid-1970s. Since then, numbers in rural England have nearly halved while numbers in towns and cities have declined by 60 per cent. Because of these large population declines, the house sparrow is now red-listed as a species of high conservation concern.
That’s shocking! The decline is caused by not surprising factors – the change in rural agricultural practices, and the urban development of towns and cities. It’s estimated that there are 5.3 million pairs, which may seem like a lot, but the fact that there are half the numbers of country sparrows from forty years ago, and much more than half less in towns makes it seem as if the decline might increase, and soon there won’t be those cheeky, noisy little birds hopping about the rooftops and branches.
They are two types of sparrow in the UK, the house sparrow – and I guess that’s the one I’m thinking of, but there is also the smaller tree sparrow. House sparrows eat anything, that’s why they like to be where people are, plenty of food available! Tree sparrows eat insects and seeds, and although they might nest in old or deserted buildings, they don’t really like to be where humans are. House sparrows will make their nests anywhere, in any nook or cranny, and apparently, I’ve just found out, they are not averse to tipping other species out of their nests, swallows and martins for example!!
There are dialect names for sparrows – there are dialect names for just about everything in fact… sparr, sparrer, spadger, spadgick, philip, spug, spuggy, spur, sprig… it actually comes from the Old English word, spearwa.
So as I sit here with the window open, even though the sun is going down I can hear sparrows on the roof above, in the apple tree, in the Christmas tree which we planted a couple of years ago, in the honey-suckle… in fact they are everywhere – not in decline in our village I’m very pleased to say!
There are no sparrows visible in my featured image – but that’s the japonica they love! I think it is home to a lot of insects, so it’s like a snack bar for them!