House Sparrows, Passer domesticus, Factsheet and How to Help Them.

by Judith John.

Female House Sparrow.  Photo by Judy John.
Female House Sparrow. Photo by Judy John.

House sparrows are resident throughout the UK, living in groups often first noticed by their noisy cheeping. They live for 3-4 years (occasionally for much longer), mate for life and often return to the same nest site every year, building nests quite close together of dry grass lined with feathers and hair in holes, crevices or hedges. They will also use nestboxes.

Between April and August each pair may lay 2-3 clutches of 2-5 eggs. The young are fed on invertebrates, including aphids, caterpillars, beetles and grasshoppers. When these are scarce, seeds and vegetable matter are also given, but the adults rarely travel more than 60-80 metres from the nest site. Young birds leave the nest after 14-16 days, but the parents continue to feed them until they are fully independent at about 4 weeks. They then often form small flocks. Adult birds are mainly seed eaters but they also eat insects.

According to the RSPB, UK house sparrow numbers fell 71&percent; between 1977-2008. In urban areas experiments have shown that lack of invertebrates for birds in the nest is one factor, but although providing supplementary mealworms improved the numbers of fledging birds, the numbers surviving to breed the following year only showed marginal improvements even when seeds were supplied. Research is ongoing, with a reduction in colony numbers noted to coincide with areas where air pollution from vehicle emissions is high.

55 records were submitted for the 2018 survey, from many parts of the borough of which 7 reported that they had started seeing house sparrows again following a gap when none had been seen for a number of years. One resident from Beckenham stated that 2018 was the first time she had seen them since moving into her current house 14 years ago, another reported, 'first time in years'. Residents from West Wickham recorded 'the first sighting for 10 years', 'the first for a very long time' and 'Yes they are coming back'. A population in Leaves Green, Biggin Hill has grown to over 30. So may be some good news here.

Records included 20 from West Wickham – thanks, in part, to an article in the residents association newsletter, but there were also 6 from Orpington, 5 from Beckenham and records from Penge East Station, Petts Wood, South Norwood, Norman Park, St. Paul's Cray, Downe, Hayes, Coney Hall, Chislehurst, Gravel Road, Lovibonds Ave., Crown Lane, near Hoblingwell Wood and near Sundridge Park. In 2019 short articles asking for records of priority species in the London Borough of Bromley, including house sparrow, will be submitted to some residents association newsletters.

Threats to House Sparrow

Measures to help House Sparrow in Bromley

*More invertebrates in the UK are adapted to feed on native plants than non-native plants, so these are more valuable for wildlife.

Reference, and to find out more, see the RSPB website at this link: RSPB

— Bromley Biodiversity Partnership Species & Habitats Subgroup, January 2019


To see or download a poster about helping house sparrows, please click here:

     Downloadable House Sparrows Poster

This article is copyright © Judith John 2019.