Tree Sparrow – 93 Per Cent Exterminated

Introduction

Sparrows arrived here towards the end of the last ice-age, nesting in caves and cliffs. We have lived side by side with the humble sparrow since man first emerged. Life would not be the same without them.

All across the UK, for centuries, sparrows have formed part of the massed choir during the dawn chorus. Now, increasingly both the house sparrow and the tree sparrow are disappearing.

Sparrows hide their cup-shaped nests as best they can from predators. They choose dense scrubs, hedges and any other cover available.

They build from different types of foliage, with the eggs clustered safely, in the bottom. This nesting cup is often lined with grasses, moss, animal hair, or feathers. These provide excellent insulation, when the incubating female; leaves the nest for short periods, to go foraging to feed the nestlings. Sometimes also, the cup is lined with mud. This helps to cement the grasses, leaves and twigs together into a firm structure.

Tree Sparrow

Tree sparrow

Tree Sparrow

The Tree Sparrow is a rich, chestnut brown, with a white collar and cheeks. It also sports a large black spot on its breast, right in the middle.  In 2010, the B.T.O. or British Trust for Ornithology announced that the Tree Sparrow population had been decimated by 93%. In not too many years’ time, future generations may never see them again…

 

Gregarious Tree Sparrows used to be found pretty much worldwide. They are shyer and smaller than our House Sparrow and they mate for life.

 

Our fetching elegant, tiny, little Tree Sparrow has a more harmonious song than the House Sparrow. It is so very active and boasts a distinctive, permanently-cocked tail.  It also takes well to nest boxes.

 

 

 

House Sparrow

This is a picture, taken in London of the House Sparrow,

The House Sparrow

The House Sparrow can be found in most parts of the world. It is usually about 16 centimetres long and weighs between 0.85oz and 1.39 oz. Females and young birds are coloured pale brown with a grey crown. Males have brighter black, white, and brown markings.

In 2010, the B.T.O. census numbers were down by 90%

These songbirds were once a big part of all our lives. Along with so many other beautiful avian visitors from across the seas, they graced our gardens and enriched our spirit.

The jolly, little House Sparrow is always gregarious, perky and bustling. They are our cockney chirrups; with their lovely, cheerful and chirpy song.

Between 1972 and 1996, it is estimated, that 9.6million house sparrows had disappeared. This was a loss of 65%.

In 1990, there were eight sparrows for every garden. By the year 2000, there were only four. It would also seem that the house sparrow, was already extinct in Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bradford, Newcastle and Southampton.

In the next survey in 2010, 90% of our sparrows were dead. Both House Sparrows and Tree Sparrows were struggling to survive here in Great Britain.

 

But Why Has This Happened?

One of the most likely reasons is that pollution, from vehicles and other sources, is killing off the insects on which sparrows feed their offspring in the first crucial days after they hatch.

 

What, as individuals, can we do about it?

  • Well-intentioned people are increasingly feeding birds with low-quality peanuts, sold in corner shops and at discount stores. These nuts end up releasing toxins that are absolutely deadly to garden birds.
  • Instead of buying cheap peanuts for your bird table, spend a few pennies extra and get some sunflower seeds with fruit millet from a reputable pet shop.
  • Make sure also that bird tables and feeders are brought in and cleaned every one to two weeks, always binning any mouldy seeds, especially peanuts.
  • Don’t add to the increasing food waste scandal by discarding family food-leftovers. Put your fresh, moist, finely cut-up chicken, sausage meat and bacon scraps on the bird table.
  • Most of us like a neatly manicured garden, but you can help sparrows and other birds, by deliberately leaving some patches of weeds and unmown grass to attract seeds and insects. If they offend your eye, site them, along with your garden bins and compost heap, behind an attractive trellis wall.
  • Avoid nasty chemicals-sprays and pellets designed to kill off soft-bodied bugs. These are precisely what young house sparrow chicks love to eat. Under your house eaves, the adult birds are struggling to raise their family. By thoughtlessly using garden pesticides, intentionally or otherwise, you are stopping them from doing so and turning the garden into a “quiet zone.”
  • Consider planting, or at least not cutting down, those really dense bushes and scrubs that sparrows need to forage, roost and hide from predators.
  • Lobby the R.S.P.B. to remove their legal protection of Sparrowhawks which kill so many sparrows and other birds

 

Sparrowhawks and the R.S.P.B.

The Hateful Sparrowhawk in full flight

The Hateful Sparrowhawk

In 1954, the RSPB introduced legal protection for sparrowhawks! This species is renowned for killing our tiny little sparrows and other songbirds, for sport, not food. That is to say, they kill but don’t necessarily always eat them.

From 1840 onwards, British sparrows could be found in Boston, New York, all over the USA and around the world.

Throughout America and elsewhere, they manage to retain a healthy population of British sparrows? In other words, unlike here at home, they are not being killed off.

Now, here’s a thought! – Could this perhaps be because instead of positively protecting them, they manage instead to keep their own predator species down to a manageable level?

If everything is ok in the States, why is this disaster occurring in the UK?

Perhaps we should ask the R.S.P.B. which in case you had forgotten stands for the “Royal Society for the Protection of Birds” – What a misnomer!

Their charter claims the object of the society is “to maintain bird numbers, diversity and national geographical distribution.”

Unfortunately, they are not doing a very good job with our sparrows. There is a lot that could be done, but perhaps they should start, by removing the legal protection of sparrowhawks. This demonstrably and upsettingly is contributing to the extermination of our sparrows!

 

Quote of the Day

Albert Einstein – “Only two things are infinite… the universe and human stupidly and I’m not too sure about the former.”

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