The decline of the House Sparrow: a review

Published on 01 September 2003 in Main articles

ABSTRACT The House Sparrow Passer domesticus population in Britain suffered a major decline in the 1920s, particularly in built-up areas, which coincided with the replacement of the horse by the internal combustion engine.The mixed fortunes of House Sparrows since then are examined, emphasising that factors operating on farmland populations differ from those in towns and cities. Farmland sparrows decreased by about 60% between 1979 and 1995, but then stabilised at a new, lower level; this decline is attributed to changes in agricultural practices.The situation with sparrows in built-up areas is much more complex, with a gradual decline until about 1990. Since then, a massive decrease has led to almost complete extinction in some urban centres, while in the suburbs and small rural towns, sparrows have decreased little, if at all. Some speculative ideas are put forward to account for the situation in built-up areas.he recent decline of the House Sparrow Passer domesticus in the United Kingdom and parts of western Europe is widely recognised (Summers-Smith 1999; Crick et al. 2002). Indeed, in December 2002, the Telegraph Magazine considered the species’ appearance on the Red List of UK endangered species (Gregory et al. 2002) as one of the notable events of theyear! This paper aims to review the present situation, recognising that there are substantial differences in what is happening in farmland, urban centres, and small rural towns and suburbs, and also between the UK and the neighbouring continental mainland. The decline of the House Sparrow in farmland parallels that of

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