House sparrow most spotted bird in Lancashire

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

HOUSE sparrows are now the most spotted bird in Lancashire, a study involving thousands of residents found.

Almost 10,000 participants of the Birdwatch survey in Lancashire discovered starlings were no longer the most widely spotted bird in the county – with house sparrows knocking them off the top spot. Continue reading

Sparrow monitoring project launched in West Side

A project to monitor one of the most common birds in Shetland has been launched in the West Side.

House sparrows are being monitored.

House sparrows are being monitored.

The house sparrow is under threat in many parts of Britain and has been added to conservationists’ “red list” of concern.

Naturalist and bird ringer Graham Uney set up the Shetland House Sparrow Project last month to monitor the species’ survival from one year to the next.

He said: “I’ve seen the house sparrow vanish from many parts of Britain, and when I moved to Shetland and found good numbers here, I knew that studying this healthy population could give us some answers as to what has gone wrong elsewhere.

“Watching and monitoring sparrow movements and survival might even reduce the risk of them becoming extinct in Shetland in the future.”

While there might seem to be little risk of this now, it has occurred in many counties throughout Britain. Sparrows used to be the most common farmland bird, but they have been extinct from a number of farms for several years. Graham said: “I worked on a farm in Suffolk where I was told thousands used to forage around the yard and grain stores. In all of my survey work on that farm, I never saw a single sparrow”. He also worked for the RSPB at their Hope Farm in Cambridgeshire, and it was the same there.

Those running the Shetland House Sparrow Project believe monitoring is the first step to conserving a species and are using ringing methods to establish what percentage of the population survives on a yearly basis. A metal ring can be fitted to the bird’s leg, each ring with a code identifying that bird.

As this requires the bird to be caught again in order to read the number, an alternative to the usual metal ring is a plastic, colour ring with a code. These can be read in the field by an observer using binoculars and anybody with sparrows in their garden can help with the project by having a look and reporting to the project if they see a bird with a coloured ring.

Mr Uney added: “Each colour ring has a two digit code. The code, the colour of the ring, and the colour of the lettering are all important to identify the bird. At present all birds we catch have a black ring, with white lettering, so all we need to know is the actual code. The code can be numbers, letters, or a combination of the two. If you see a bird with one of these and can read the code, please let us know where and when, and the code itself.”

A colour-ringed house sparrow can be reported by emailing or calling Mr Uney on (01595) 860399.

The project is supported locally by the Shetland Ringing Group, the Shetland Wildlife Fund, and the Plantiecrub Garden Centre.

Birds are only being colour ringed in Skeld, but as the project expands, you may see birds elsewhere with colour rings.

The project has a website where anyone interested can stay in touch with the latest findings.


Sparrow shelters bring cheer to bird lovers

MUMBAI: Once a ubiquitous bird, the house sparrow, is gradually disappearing from the city for loss of habitat and nesting sites. On World Sparrow Day last month, various conservationists and bird lovers lamented the drop in the number of sparrows compared to more resilient birds like pigeons and crows. However, there are many Mumbaikars who refuse to let go of the bird so easily. In a bid to ensure that sparrows do not fly out of their neighbourhood, many houses have put have sparrowshelters and feeders. For some it is a way of preserving the disappearing bird in the city, for others it’s sheer joy of having birds for neighbours.

K Munshi, a retired army officer, brought a sparrowshelterin his Kandivali house about eight months ago. It was his love for birds which prompted him to purchase the wooden box for sparrowhomes. As many sparrowcouples made it their home, the shelterbecame part of the family. “I did not want my children to grow up without birds around. It was an attempt to bring birds closer home,” said Munshi. His daughter Tanya said she learnt her lessons in parenting from the sparrowcouples who raised their young ones in shelter. “It was a learning experience to just watch the birds take care of their baby. I was expecting a baby myself and it was inspiring to watch these birds take care of their babies,” she said. “It like having another family around,” she added.

An engineer working and living in the eastern suburbs said that the sparrow shelteradds, in a small way, to nature. “Since I got the sparrow shelter, many of my neighbours also got inspired and put up feeders. Some of them even leave sparrowfood out on the window sill. This has increased the number of sparrowsin the area,” he said. “”Its a small thing, but it keeps the chirruping of the birds alive,”” he added.

Though massive destruction of green patches and new-age urban housing has send sparrowsin search of new habitats, many Mumbaikars are still working to create nesting space for the birds in various neighbourhoods. Sunish Subramanian, a resident of Bhandup, started keeping small water containers for sparrowsnear his window sill. When the birds started flocking the area, he also made a container and kept grains for them.

“Sparrowsneed the right food and a place to nest. If these things are available, they will flourish,” said Subramanian, who also founded the Plants and Animals Welfare Society (PAWS). He has, along with volunteers from schools, has given sparrow shelters to more than 2,000 homes in the area in the last two years.

“You create nests for them, they will come. In Mumbai, there are very few places for sparrowsto make nest,” he said. “Once the birds take up the wooden nest, most people develop an attachment towards them. Only then do they realise what they were missing out on,” he added.

Sparrows most common Derry birds

House sparrow (right) and chaffinch are the most common birds in Derry gardens - but their numbers are falling

House sparrow (right) and chaffinch are the most common birds in Derry gardens – but their numbers are falling

House sparrows and chaffinches are the most common birds in Derry gardens but experts have warned their numbers are on decline.

The RSPB said the results of their Big Garden Birdwatch survey 2013 – which involved more than 10,000 people in the north counting the birds in their garden over a weekend in January – show both sparrow and chaffinch numbers falling by more than 15% on last year despite being the most common bird across county Derry.

Ciara Friers, RSPB NI said the Big Garden Bird Watch – the world’s largest wildlife survey – is vital in detailing bird numbers both locally and across the UK.

“Our results often paint a different picture to other parts of the UK, it’s so important that lots of people take part in the survey to help identify species decline and to find out how garden birds are faring-they are a great indicator of a healthy countryside.

“The lack of food further north drove more unusual birds into our gardens with increased numbers of the beautiful waxwing and brambling.”

In Co Derry the top three sightings were house sparrow, chaffinch and starling. Blackbirds and robins were recorded in over 90 per cent of Derry gardens.

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Spotted: decline in common birds

House sparrows, blackbirds and wood pigeons are the most commonly-spotted feathered visitors to Leicestershire gardens, according to a national survey.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has released the results of its annual Big Garden Birdwatch, carried out during the last weekend in January.

More than 8,000 people in the county took part in the survey, which nationally showed a dramatic decline in the number of previously-common birds including sparrows and starlings.

Locally, the top 10 species spotted in gardens during the birdwatch were: house sparrow, blackbird, wood pigeon, starling, blue tit, goldfinch, chaffinch, long-tailed tit, great tit and robin.

Kay West, of Great Glen, was among those who took part in the survey, and was thrilled to spot a sparrowhawk – not the usual bird-table visitor – perched on her garden fence.

She said: “We have a fair number of birds in the garden – even a pheasant – but the sparrowhawk was something else.”

The RSPB stressed the importance of providing suitable habitats for different species of bird to nest and feed, something Thurmaston resident and bird fan Pam Nethercot said she supported.

She said: “We have a big, 150ft garden with lots of feeders and nest boxes so get a variety, including greenfinches, goldcrests, robins and great tits.”

Margaret Briggs, of Birstall, who also took part in the survey, said: “My main passion is flowers but our garden also has nesting boxes and feeding stations for the birds and insects.

“My husband, Stuart, and I have recorded about 70 different species of bird in the garden, ranging in size from herons to wrens.”

Martin Harper, RSPB conservation director, said: “We know from the many people who take part in Big Garden Birdwatch that garden birds are incredibly precious to us.

“I had the joy of doing the birdwatch with my children this year and, fidgeting aside, it was one of those memorable mornings when the family is captivated by nature.

“Gardens make up about 4 per cent of land area in the UK and their role as habitats for our wildlife is clear. They are the places birds come to for food and shelter when conditions in the countryside are especially tough.

“We can all play a part in making them more welcoming for wildlife, whether we have a garden full of greenery, a yard or a window box.”

Turn to p28 to see readers’ pictures of their gardens, including some taken by Kay and Pam.

Further details about how to protect birds and garden wildlife can be found by visiting:

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Endangered garden birds continuing to decline in the UK, RSPB survey shows

House sparrows, already an endangered species, fell by 17% on 2012 figures. Photograph: AlvecoteWood/Guardian Green Shoots/Flickr

House sparrows, already an endangered species, fell by 17% on 2012 figures. Photograph: AlvecoteWood/Guardian Green Shoots/Flickr

House sparrow and starling numbers dropping at alarming rate, but prolonged winter brings new species to backyards

Starlings, house sparrows and other threatened garden birds have suffered a further decline in their numbers over the past year, new figures show.

The results from the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch (BGBW), based on half a million people counting birds in their gardens over a weekend in January, also showed an increase in the species that are not commonly seen in back gardens, such as fieldfares and jays, after a freezing start to the year drove them out of the countryside in search of food.

Numbers of starlings, a “red-listed” species of conservation concern which dropped to a record low in last year’s birdwatch, declined by a further 16% this year.

House sparrows – also endangered – fell by 17% on 2012 figures, while bullfinches and dunnock numbers also fell, by 20% and 13% respectively. While green finches have declined by nearly 21% since last year.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s conservation director, said: “We know from the many people who take part in Big Garden Birdwatch every year that garden birds are incredibly precious to us and connect us to nature every day … but several of our familiar and best-loved species have been declining at alarming rates over the 34 years that the RSPB has been running the birdwatch and this year’s results show a continuing decline.”

The starling, famous for its winter “murmurations” involving up to hundreds of thousands of birds, has seen a steady decline in numbers since the BGBW survey began in 1979. Losses have been linked to the loss of traditional, established farming pastures, where experts believe that intensively farmed land makes it more difficult for birds to find their favourite food – the cranefly larvae that live in undisturbed soil.

House sparrows have experienced a rapid recent decline, particularly in urban and suburban environments: greater London lost seven out of 10 sparrows between 1994 and 2001. The causes remain largely unknown, with everything from cats to air pollution being blamed.

“The decline of these two species is part of a long-term trend and nothing to do with the cold weather,” said RSPB spokeswoman Wendy Johnson. “Starlings have gone down 82% since we started the survey and house sparrows by 63%. Bullfinches and dunnocks haven’t declined overall in the same way as sparrows, starlings and songthrushes, however they are amber-listed species and we are concerned because they have suffered declines this year and over the last few years.”

However the freezing temperatures in January meant that some species of birds increased in gardens, with sightings of siskins, fieldfares and jays up by as much as 85%. The RSPB said cold, harsh conditions in the wider countryside was likely to have driven more of these birds into gardens in search for food. For example, more jays were seen in gardens searching for alternative food sources after a particularly bad crop of acorns last year.

Big Garden Birdwatch 2013

Big Garden Birdwatch 2013

The RSPB said the results showed that gardens – as well as wider UK habitat protection – were vital in supporting threatened wildlife.

Harper said: “Gardens make up around 4% of land area in the UK and their role as habitats for our wildlife is clear. They are the places that birds come to for food and shelter when conditions in the countryside are especially tough and together we can all play a part in making them more welcoming and supportive for wildlife.”

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