attention of people has contributed to a high disappearance rate of sparrows from urban areas due to loss of habitat. In recent years, it has been getting more and more difficult to come across lively flocks of sparrows hopping around city streets. In the past, however, you could find those tiny birds nibbling on little insects or grains at every corner. They were a common inhabitant of every little crack in city roofs, protrusions of different sorts, or even holes in city structures. Over the last 3 decades though, their decline seems to be accelerating every year. Some cities are about to lose their entire sparrow populations within a few years¹.
The main cause of sparrow decline is the increasing trend of urbanization. In many urban areas, sparrow populations have decreased almost to zero. Nevertheless, populations have not changed much in rural areas, which clearly illustrates the adverse effect urbanization can have for sparrow populations². Among the factors affecting their decline are the lack of food, as insect population levels have dropped due to the spread of pesticides, and the decrease of open green spaces in city centers. Sparrows are also sensitive to pollution, that comes in many different forms in cities and rapidly increases as cities grow. Other problems arise from the modern architecture of building that is not only unfriendly to birds, but does not offer them any safe or cozy shelter options³.
According to research there is a correlation between the impact of electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile towers and sparrow populations. In London, 75% of sparrows disappeared between 1994 and 2010, while numbers of mobile towers increased in the area. Effects of electromagnetic radiation can negatively affect a bird’s nervous system. Birds lose their ability to navigate and search for food, which are essential abilities for survival. Sadly, it is not only the adults who suffer from the impacts of electromagnetic radiation, but their eggs fail to hatch when in close proximity with mobile towers. This negatively affects their reproductive success⁴.
What can you do to help?
Everyone can make life in cities a little bit easier for those gentle little birds. You can begin by providing water to help them during hot summers, or leaving some little snack on your windowsill such as millet, cracked corn, or perhaps specialized feed mix for birds.
If you are a real enthusiast and have a free spot to create some shelter, go for it. Sparrows are often driven away from already rare nesting spots by other birds, such as pigeons, who easily outnumber them. This way you can provide an opportunity for them to settle and start a family in your neighborhood. In return, they will keep it clean of insects.
Sparrows were always considered to be a loyal dweller in human settlements. Most of us have noticed these little birds in one way or another, either watching them fly around or unconsciously listening to their chirruping while walking through the streets. But what no one has observed was their gradual disappearance. Sadly, these little fellas have vanished so quietly that we haven’t paid any attention to how this happened even though it clearly suggests that something is horribly wrong with the way we treat our environment.
When species that were once abundant become endangered within a short period of time, it means that the urban ecosystem is not healthy for them, and cannot possibly be even for humans. In fact, the decrease of sparrow populations follows closely the increase of health problems among people⁴. That is one key reason for why we should fight to bring them back to the cities, and make our streets flourishing with life again.