Hurrah for the sparrow header

Hurrah for the sparrow - David Lindo

"I have a very close affinity with the humble cockney sparra'!"

A sparrow story

There are many birds that are called sparrows, but in my book there is only one real sparrow: the house sparrow.

They are quite incredible creatures. When I was a kid growing up in Wembley, north London they held the distinction of being the first bird that I correctly identified.

That realisation came after I had spent the dawn of my birding life calling them "baby birds".

A city slump

Britain is home to two of the 20 or so species of true sparrows found in the world: house sparrows, as well as their more rural relative, the tree sparrow. They are found in most of the conurbations in Britain but their connection with London is a particularly strong one.

They were once super abundant in the capital with barely a street without a cheery chirping flock of them. They were very common when I was growing up. Whenever I visited an inner-city park there were sparrows galore. They were the default small bird that you would take for granted and barely notice, like the crusty pigeons that they shared the streets with, or so I thought.

Whilst I was spreading my own wings visiting nature reserves away from the urban sprawl the sparrow population in London took a dive.

Survey results from Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens painted a depressing picture. In the 1930s there were over 3,500 birds present. By the mid-70s 1,500 and by 2001 just one bird survived there.

They had effectively become extinct in a park that was once synonymous with them.

A comeback thanks to you

But it's not all doom and gloom. Thankfully, their decline seems to be bottoming out according to the results of the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch.

Keen-eyed RSPB members have been reporting them in many urban back gardens, and, once again, they came top of the Big Garden Birdwatch 2018.

The message is slowly getting through to the general public about making their gardens more wildlife friendly. By planting native plant species and leaving areas to nature has encouraged more insects: a vital source of protein for nestling sparrows.

Coupled with the provision of nest boxes and feeding stations sparrows hopefully might be on the comeback.