DALS WILDLIFE SITE { WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND}

WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

House sparrow Passer domesticus.

The good and the bad habits of this much abused little bird is well documented. It is true they cause consternation to the gardener when the birds peck the petals of primulas,crocus and other garden favourites. It is my opinion however,that if we look at the two virtues over the span of a year, I believe the humble house sparrow does more good than harm. It eats weed seeds,insects,scraps, corn and a host of other things to numerous to mention. I have observed this industrious little bird absolutely clearing plants of aphids, particularly those that of accumulated on rose bushes.

The vocal powers of this little bird is familiar to most people whether or not they reside in town or country. In America they are known as the English sparrow to seperate them from the native species. 

House sparrow , as the name suggests these birds have long been associated with man's dwellings.

photograph by Dal

Man and sparrows.

Because the bird was so common and of a brownish colour many people look but do not "see" this relatively handsome bird. They are tough little birds,streetwise,well used to urban settings where most choose to spend their lives taking advantage of what this setting has to offer. Mo matter what ones opinion is of this versatile little bird its long association with man has made it one of the most successful breeding birds in Britain. Everything the species needs is provided by man.

Their adaptability  with diet and living side by side with man has stood them in good stead for many centuries. They are a familiar sight in gardens where they may be observed searching for insects or feeding from bird tables and other sources of food. In my own garden I left out a large plant-pot saucer to fill with rain water. The chubby little birds use it regularly to bathe in.

 FEMALE SPARROW FEEDING

Photograph by Dal

DESCRIPTION

The sparrow has a brownish plumage streaked darker with paler under parts, and a light wing bar. The male has a chestnut mantle, grey crown and rump.  He has a black chin and throat, a stout horn coloured bill and pale brown legs.In relation to the body the wings are of a medium length, as is the tail which is cleft. The neck is short as is the stout bill, the legs are of medium length. The flight of the bird is direct or bounding. The hop.

NEST,EGGS AND YOUNG.

The males pick the nest site and do the majority of the nest building.Once this task has been completed he advertises his comfy abode by standing near to the entrance chirping long and loud, stating his ownership. When a female approaches he stands upright his black chest pushed out and wings quivering. Once he has attracted a wife the serious business of raising their family begins.

The nest itself is probably the first nest most people encounter for it hardly needs to be searched for. The birds generally leave obvious signs of its location by leaving some material hanging out of the entrance hole. When nesting in a tree or among ivy the bulk gives it away. However, it is seldom within human reach.

It is a nest of the domed variety, coarsely constructed with an abundance of straw, hay or other suck like materials and well lined with feathers.It is not uncommon to see the bird valiantly struggling with a piece of straw several times longer than itself. Sparrows can be a pest to other species. There are many records of them commandeering the nests of other species such as the house martin. Once the bird has been ousted he then refurbishes it to accommodate his more bulky frame.

The eggs are very variable not only in colour but also in size.They number 4-6. The "normal" colour is white speckled with a drab grey or black. The amount of speckling also varies greatly.The incubation takes around 13-15 days and is carried out by the female. The young chicks are born naked and helpless and are fed regularly by their parents until they are ready to fledge at 15-17 days. House sparrows may be found nesting at most times of the year but the main breeding season is from March until July. It is possible for the parents to raise three to four broods per season.

 

FEMALE SPARROW IN TREE

Photograph by Dal

CONSERVATION CONCERNS ARE GROWING.

The house sparrow was once one of the most numerous breeding birds in Britain. So many of them existed that they were classed as a pest species. Alas, as with many other species the population numbers of the cheeky sparrow is in decline. Signs of the decline began to materialize during the 1990s and many surveys and monitoring programmes have been conducted since. For example in July and August of 2007 over a thousand volunteers walked the streets of Britain's towns and villages as part of the British Trust for Ornithology surveys. In total 1,223 randomly selected areas were visited. The observers also visited parks and allotments paying particular attention to the chirping males proclaiming their territories.

The findings of the survey was just one small piece of the overall data collected that revealed a steep decline in the population number of sparrows in England. Once the picture was completed it was estimated that the decline was over 50% over the last 30 years or so, hence the bird is now listed on the Red List of Conservation Concern. Thus they are now a Priority Species and species evidence data is being collected to ascertain the reasons for the decline. When this task is completed a species action plan for the house sparrow will be formulated which hopefully help to halt and eventually reverse  the decline.

According to the BTO Garden Bird Watch survey {which began in 1995} the decline is continuing for this species. In 1995 the percentage of reportings was 83.1%  by 2011 the figure was 64.4%

I for one would miss this chubby, chirpy little bird if it was to disappear from our feathered fauna or indeed from around where I live.

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