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BTO Blueline
HOUSE SPARROW
Passer domesticus
 

• Population
  changes

• Productivity
  trends

• Additional
  information

Conservation listings
Europe: SPEC category 3, declining
UK: red (>50% population decline)
UK Biodiversity Action Plan: priority species
Long-term trend
England: rapid decline
UK population size
2,100,000–3,675,000 pairs in 2000 (1988–91 Atlas estimate updated using CBC/BBS trend: BiE04, APEP06); about 6 million pairs in Britain (Robinson et al. 2005b)
Status summary

CBC sample sizes did not allow monitoring of House Sparrows until 1976; previously, there had been many farmland plots with high populations that could not be properly quantified without better access to farm buildings and housing. CBC/BBS data indicate a rapid decline in abundance over the last 25 years, as does the BTO's Garden Bird Feeding Survey (Siriwardena et al. 2002, Robinson et al. 2005b). These results are supported by many other studies and anecdotal reports, and have generated great conservation concern (see Summers-Smith 2003). A change in the listing criteria resulted in the admission of the species, green-listed until 2002, to the red list. A temporary drop in first-year survival coincided with the steepest decline, but changes in breeding performance, especially nest failure rates at the chick stage, have also helped drive population change (Freeman & Crick 2002). Possible explanations include a general reduction in food supply, less grain being spilt during agricultural operations, tighter hygiene regulations, increases in predation, and toxic additives to unleaded petrol (Siriwardena et al. 2002, Robinson et al. 2005b, Vincent 2005, Summers-Smith 2007, Peach et al. 2008).

The overall national decline since the 1970s masks much heterogeneity by region and habitat, and population processes may be relatively fine-grained: overall, populations in rural areas had declined by 47% by 2000, and those in urban and suburban areas by about 60% (CBC data: Robinson et al. 2005b). Within urban areas, House Sparrows may have disappeared predominantly from more affluent areas, where changes are more likely to have occurred to habitat structure (Shaw et al. 2008). The continued availability of allotments, gardens and other green spaces in urban areas is crucial to preventing further decline (Chamberlain et al. 2007). BBS suggests increases recently in Scotland and Wales. Overall, brood size has decreased, raising NRS concern (Leech & Barimore 2008), but nest success has improved markedly. Following widespread declines across Europe since the 1980s, the European status of this species is no longer considered 'secure' (BirdLife International 2004).

 

Population changes

CBC/BBS UK graph
 
Table of population changes for House Sparrow

Source Period
(yrs)
Years Plots
(n)
Change
(%)
Lower
limit
Upper
limit
Alert Comment
CBC/BBS England 29 1977-2006 511 -70 -79 -60 >50  
  25 1981-2006 587 -59 -71 -49 >50  
  10 1996-2006 1222 -13 -18 -7    
  5 2001-2006 1272 -2 -5 2    
BBS UK 11 1995-2006 1416 -6 -12 1    
  10 1996-2006 1453 -4 -10 2    
  5 2001-2006 1567 1 -2 5    
BBS England 11 1995-2006 1169 -15 -20 -10    
  10 1996-2006 1195 -13 -17 -9    
  5 2001-2006 1272 -3 -6 1    
BBS Scotland 11 1995-2006 80 37 2 75    
  10 1996-2006 81 39 7 73    
  5 2001-2006 85 13 -5 26    
BBS Wales 11 1995-2006 113 68 45 100    
  10 1996-2006 117 53 33 76    
  5 2001-2006 138 14 5 26    
BBS N.Ireland 11 1995-2006 45 43 -18 91    
  10 1996-2006 49 47 4 65    
  5 2001-2006 58 18 -4 36    

BBS acknowledgement
 
BBS UK graph
BBS England graph
BBS Scotland graph
BBS Wales graph
BBS N Ireland graph
 

Productivity trends

Table of productivity changes for House Sparrow

Variable Period
(yrs)
Years Mean
annual
sample
Trend Modelled
in first year
Modelled
in 2006
Change Comment
Clutch size 38 1968-2006 66 None        
Brood size 38 1968-2006 111 Curvilinear 3.39 chicks 2.92 chicks -13.9%  
Daily failure rate (eggs) 38 1968-2006 92 Linear decline 1.15% nests/day 0.41% nests/day -64.3%  
Daily failure rate (chicks) 38 1968-2006 88 Linear decline 1.3% nests/day 0.36% nests/day -72.3%  
Laying date 38 1968-2006 51 Linear decline May 25 May 18 -7 days  

 
Clutch size graph
Brood size graph
Egg nest failure graph
Chick nest failure graph
Laying date graph

 

 

Insufficient data for CES
available for this species

 

Additional information

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This report should be cited as:
Baillie, S.R., Marchant, J.H., Leech, D.I., Joys, A.C., Noble, D.G.,
Barimore, C., Grantham, M.J., Risely, K. & Robinson, R.A. (2009).
Breeding Birds in the Wider Countryside: their conservation status 2008.
BTO Research Report No. 516. BTO, Thetford. (http://www.bto.org/birdtrends)

Pages maintained by Iain Downie, Mandy T Andrews and Laura Smith: Last updated 18.02.2009