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BTO Blueline
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BTO Blueline
Passer domesticus

• Population

• Productivity

• Additional

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 Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Overall, brood size has decreased, raising NRS concern (Leech & Barimore 2008), but the number of fledglings per breeding attempt has improved markedly. The European status of this species is no longer considered 'secure' (BirdLife International 2004), following widespread rapid decline across Europe since 1980 (PECBMS 2010).

CBC/BBS UK graph

1977-2008: -71% (confidence interval -78% to -61%)

Population changes in detail

 Demographic trends

Fledglings per breeding attempt graph
Laying date graph
More on demographic trends
Additional information

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This report should be cited as: Baillie, S.R., Marchant, J.H., Leech, D.I., Renwick, A.R., Joys, A.C., Noble, D.G., Barimore, C., Conway, G.J., Downie, I.S., Risely, K. & Robinson, R.A. (2010). Breeding Birds in the Wider Countryside: their conservation status 2010. BTO Research Report No. 565. BTO, Thetford. (http://www.bto.org/birdtrends)

Pages maintained by Iain Downie, Mandy T Andrews and Laura Smith: Last updated 11.10.2010