Do You Have Sparrow Nesting Boxes?
House sparrows are tenacious opportunists and have managed to colonise most areas of the world. However their numbers have been in sharp decline in the UK. It is estimated that the population of house sparrows dropped by an alarming 71% between 1977 and 2008. The decline in England has continued but sparrow populations have recovered a little in other areas of the UK.
The precise reasons for the decline in the sparrow population are unknown and research continues. Changes in agricultural practices may be partially to blame. Improved hygiene at grain stores and a reduction in winter stubbles has robbed sparrows of valuable sources of food. But this isn’t the whole story.
Just about everything you can think of has been blamed for the falling sparrow population including predation by cats and air pollution. Recent research suggests that there are two factors which have proved to have the greatest impact – a lack of insects and a lack of nesting sites.
Insects and House Sparrows
Insects are an important source of food for sparrows especially when they are feeding their young. The number of insects available has fallen due to urbanisation. Meadows have become housing developments and gardens have become tidier and more formal.
You can help house sparrows by allowing at least a section of your garden to go wild. You should plant insect friendly trees including apple, oak, birch and alder. It helps if you feature plants which attract butterflies as these will lay eggs which will then deliver a supply of caterpillars in the spring. The insects in your garden will bring other visitors such as bats and hedgehogs. You should control pests in your garden via natural means rather than by using chemical pesticides.
Nesting Sites and Sparrow Nesting Boxes
House sparrows are naturally social birds and prefer to nest in large numbers. They seek nesting sites in hedges or high up in buildings. Modern houses do not have traditional eves and many hedgerows have been removed and so the number of potential nesting sites has been reduced.
You can really help by putting up sparrow nesting boxes on your property. One bird box is not sufficient to attract a colony and so it is best to place a few side by side. They should be at least 2m above the ground. Choose sites which are shaded from the sun and shielded from the wind.
You could also plant hedgerows or large shrubs around the borders of your garden. These will provide valuable cover and so enable the sparrows to feel more secure and could be chosen as nesting sites. Hawthorn, elder and buddleia are all excellent choices. Buddleia is also a firm favourite with butterflies.
House sparrows will visit garden feeders and so the provision of food will attract the birds to your garden and will help them to prosper. They enjoy mixed seeds and mealworms but do ensure that you keep your feeders clean to prevent the spread of disease.
It may take some time to encourage house sparrows to visit your home but if you create the right environment, you should eventually see house sparrows around your property.