House Sparrows prospering in Wales

No.:  2012-26
July 2012

Latest figures from the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) reveal that numbers of House Sparrows have doubled in Wales since the early 1990s.

House Sparrow by John Harding 

Since the early 1990s House Sparrow
numbers have doubled in Wales

House Sparrows, once widespread, have been in drastic decline across the UK since the 1970s, and are now listed as a species of conservation concern. These declines are thought to be caused by decreased survival due to lack of food, and decreased productivity in urban areas, but the exact mechanism is unclear. Happily, numbers have recovered slightly in recent years, and the biggest increases have been in Wales, where House Sparrows have seen a 106% increase since 1994.

BBS population trends are published annually for over 50 bird species in Wales, and while many birds are thriving, others have declined. Numbers of Yellowhammers, a red-listed farmland bird, have reached their lowest level in Wales since the start of the survey, declining by 24% between 2010 and 2011.

Kate Risely, BBS organiser at the British Trust for Ornithology, said “It is encouraging that BBS volunteers are able to measure this recovery of the House Sparrow population in Wales. BBS results are crucial in understanding the causes behind bird declines, and we owe this information to dedicated volunteer birdwatchers across the country”.

Dr Sian Whitehead, ornithologist at the Countryside Council for Wales, added “The recent establishment of BTO Cymru has already seen an increase in BBS coverage in Wales, providing better information about the population trends of many of our widespread species. With a full-time BTO presence here in Wales we can now look forward to engaging with even more volunteers, whose dedication and enthusiasm will allow us to gather even better information about Wales' bird populations.”

The BBS survey provides vital information for RSPB Cymru’s scientific research and conservation management here in Wales. The news that our House Sparrows are doing so well is a cause for real celebration. However, the decline of Yellowhammers is extremely worrying and sadly mirrors the big loss in numbers of other red and amber-listed species of our farmland and open country such as Skylarks and Starlings. It’s imperative that the Welsh Government properly supports and pays our farmers to manage the countryside in a sustainable way, and BBS is a vital tool which will help us monitor how effective Wales’ new agri-environment scheme, Glastir, is at addressing these declines” said Dr Séan Christian, Head of Conservation, RSPB Cymru.

Notes for Editors

  1.  For a PDF of the full report visit www.bto.org/bbs/results/BBSreport11
  2. The Breeding Bird Survey is run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and is jointly funded by BTO, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) (on behalf of the statutory nature conservation agencies: Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, the Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage), and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
  3. The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is a national project aimed at keeping track of changes in the breeding populations of widespread bird species in the UK. The BBS involves around 2,500 participants who survey more than 3,200 sites across the UK, enabling us to monitor the population changes of over 100 bird species. Knowing to what extent bird populations are increasing or decreasing is fundamental to bird conservation.
  4. The information provided by the BBS provides a cornerstone for conservation action for birds in the UK.
  5. This important survey is carried out by volunteer birdwatchers throughout the UK, who receive no financial reward or expenses for their efforts. We are indebted to them for their tremendous support..
  6. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research organisation. Over thirty thousand birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys. They collect information that forms the basis of conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Norfolk, Stirling and Bangor, who analyse and publicise the results of project work. The BTO's investigations are funded by government, industry and conservation organisations.

Contact Details

Kate Risely
(Breeding Bird Survey Organiser)
Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: kate.risely [at] bto.org

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Press Officer)
Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at] bto.org

Kelvin Jones
(BTO Wales Development Coordinator)
Office: 01248 383285
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: kelvin.jones [at] bto.org

Daniel Jenkins-Jones
(Head of Public Affairs, RSPB Wales)
Office: 02920 353011
Mobile: 07828 093 613
Email: daniel.jenkins-jones [at] rspb.org.uk

Images are available for use alongside this News Release. Please contact images [at] bto.org quoting reference 2012-26 

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