Often colloquially known as the ‘Cockney sparrow’, the house sparrow is well known to many people as a common and widespread small bird. Of the world’s 26 true sparrow species, it is the house sparrow which has colonised the world as a result of global trade, and is now found on almost every continent.
However, although once a familiar sight in many areas, the house sparrow has undergone a dramatic decline in parts of its range. In the United Kingdom alone, its population has dropped by a staggering 71% since 1977, and sharp declines have also been noted in other countries.
The exact reasons for these declines are unclear, but may include a combination of pollution, a reduction in food availability, a loss of suitable habitat and nesting sites, increased predation and disease. Urban noise has also been linked with sparrow declines, possibly as it prevents the adult birds from hearing the hunger calls of their chicks.
The idea for World Sparrow Day, which was first celebrated in 2010, came from the Nature Forever Society, who saw its potential for making a positive difference to the fate of the house sparrow. It is hoped that the day can help convey the message about the need to conserve this and other common bird species, as well as marking a day of celebration of the common biodiversity which we can often take for granted.
Those involved hope to inspire as many people as possible to join the celebrations and get involved in the conservation of house sparrows and their habitats. Suggested actions include talking about sparrows on social media websites and highlighting their plight, as well as creating sparrow habitats and providing sparrows with nest boxes and feeding stations.
World Sparrow Day is therefore a chance for everyone to rise to the challenge of saving this once-common and much-loved small bird.
You can also find out more about the day at RSPB News – World Sparrow Day.
Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author