Sunday, May 16

A respite for sparrows | Ecology | Climate and Environment


A sparrow on a terrace in the city.
A sparrow on a terrace in the city.SEO/BirdLife

Sparrows still do not have it well either in Spain or in Europe, but the popular species has managed to overcome the last two years with some stability. This is great news for a common bird that has lost more than 60% of its population in Europe since 1980, notes the ornithology NGO SEO / BirdLife. In fact, the trend for the sparrow, considering only the southern European region (Spain, Italy, France and Portugal) for which data have been available since 1989, it is considered stable, according to the European BirdCensus Council (EBCC), which collects the monitoring of common birds of all European countries.

In the Iberian Peninsula, the greatest declines of the species, close to 10%, occur in the southern half, the eastern part and the Eurosiberian strip. However, in the northern plateau and part of Extremadura, their populations do seem to experience a slight increase. The data is collected by hundreds of volunteers who participate in the monitoring programs of the ornithological NGO “in a systematic way and following a scientific methodology”.

Juan Carlos del Moral, coordinator of the SEO / BirdLife species monitoring program, explains that this improvement “may be specific” so it is necessary to remain cautious. “There are continuous ups and downs that prevent the sparrow from recovering from the heavy losses it carries. The decline continues to be greater than what is gained ”, he clarifies. They are very affected by cold winters and very rainy springs. “This year spring has been good for reproduction, but we do not yet know what consequences the storm Filomena had, it is easy that part of the population died,” he warns. According to his latest calculations, there are 31 million sparrows in Spain.

These small birds are highly fluctuating and their development can only be determined with long-term monitoring, conservationists clarify in a statement issued on the occasion of World Sparrow Day, which is celebrated today. Time will tell, therefore, if these two years are a mirage, as has happened on other occasions, or if a change in trend is really taking place.

It is not yet known exactly why such an adaptable and undemanding species with habitat and food declines. It has been proven that the population decreases more sharply in urban centers than in rural areas, SEO / BirdLife maintains. In the cities, the sparrows run into “serious problems” such as the lack of green areas and suitable places to nest, because new buildings are increasingly “less friendly to birds”, having fewer holes to take refuge.

To these factors is added “the increasing difficulty to find food in modern cities, electromagnetism, predation or removal of trees and competition with invasive species.” In the rural world, they are faced with the barrier of agricultural intensification, the abusive use of pesticides or the abandonment of towns, because their evolution is closely linked to living with human beings. In February of last year a study published in the journal Science He emphasized avian malaria, which especially affects smaller birds such as sparrows, blue tit or chickadee.

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