Declining house sparrow shows signs of feeling chirpy again
The cheering chirruping of house sparrows, once common in gardens, has declined drastically over the past four decades. A generation after numbers plummeted, however, there is hope.
House sparrows were spotted at an average rate of ten per garden in 1979 when the RSPB began its Big Garden Birdwatch, which asks amateur ornithologists to report which species appear outside their homes.
Since then sightings in the survey have fallen to less than half that number, which the charity believes is due to changing agricultural practices, such as the loss of winter stubble and improved hygiene around grain stores.
Now there are signs of a recovery, with sightings rising by 10 per cent over the past decade. At the 41st annual birdwatching weekend held in January an average of 4.7 house sparrows were seen, prompting hopes that they have turned the corner.
Almost 1.3 million house sparrows were seen over the weekend. Experts believe the mild winter may have helped smaller birds, which are susceptible to cold conditions.
Sightings of long-tailed tits rose by 14 per cent from the year before, with wrens going up by 13 per cent and coal tits by 10 per cent.
Starlings were the second most common bird with three sightings on average per garden, then blue tits (2.9), wood pigeons (2.3) and blackbirds (2.1).
Kate Risely, of the British Trust for Ornithology, said: “A connection to nature is so important to our wellbeing, and the easiest place to watch and learn about wildlife is in our own gardens.”