The house sparrow is one of the most iconic urban birds in Britain. Although we are all used to seeing this sociable little brown bird hop and shuffle around our gardens, it in serious trouble. Over the past 25 years (a human generation) there has been a nationwide collapse in house sparrow population sizes.
Today, there are almost no house sparrows in central London and it would be terribly sad if the same thing happened in Brighton & Hove.
Brighton & Hove’s Wildlife Forum (working with the RSPB, Sussex Ornithological Society, the University of Brighton and other environmental groups) are running an exciting new project over the next 3-5 years which, it is hoped, will lead to an increase in house sparrow numbers in our City.
3 simple steps we can all take to help our house sparrows have been identified by a number of different studies in recent years:
- Nest sites Sparrows prefer to nest in a hole in a building or a nest box (with an entrance 32mm) preferably at least 2m above ground level. They like to nest in colonies, but the entrances ideally need to be at least 30cm apart
- Food They eat seeds, mainly from the ground plus some berries such as elder. Insects such as caterpillars and aphids are crucial for the growing chicks. Providing mealworms (dried ones are fine!) during the breeding season will help the chicks to thrive. Filling our gardens with insects and avoiding use of chemicals will, of course, benefit all wildlife.
- Habitat Sparrows appreciate gardens which are a little untidy! They enjoy gossiping sessions (chapels) in thick bushes or hedges and love bathing in the dust.
The project needs willing surveyors with a few hours to spare any time during April or May to hunt for house sparrows around the streets of Brighton & Hove. They will be allocating an area of the City for each person to survey, and you can do this on a day which suits you.
If you are interested in talking part email BHsparrows@gmail.com or visit www.BHsparrows.uk
The Forum would also like to hear about house sparrows in your neighbourhood, and would be particularly interested to hear about any colonies which you remember from past years, but have now disappeared. Let them know on the website by selecting ‘Survey’. This information is recorded on a Distribution Map to build up a picture of the Brighton & Hove sparrow situation.