Islington sparrows defy London trend to rise in numbers

THE chirping of the Cockney sparra has remained a bedrock of Islington’s soundscape over the last five years - despite a steady decline across the capital.

The results of this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch show sparrow numbers are generally continuing to fall across the London - but in Islington, the population’s shown a slight increase compared with half a decade ago.

The RSPB’s London House Sparrow Parks Project Officer, Jacqueline Weir, has given the findings a cautious welcome.

“The small rise is great to see but the fall in sparrow numbers is continuing elsewhere, so we’ve got some way to go before the species can be deemed safe,” she said. “The council’s made huge improvements in the parks, but it is Islington’s private gardens that will provide the space and food to properly support sparrows.”

Tim Webb, from RSPB London, said: “This year’s cold weather didn’t help our smaller garden birds. The snow and ice deprived many of them of food and water at a time when they needed to eat more to survive. However, the Big Garden Birdwatch reveals trends and it’s clear that over the past five years we’ve witnessed a steady fall in house sparrow and starling numbers.”

“It is this long term decline that is a great worry. Something is causing their numbers to tumble and despite extensive research, we’re not yet in a position to reverse that. However, our research has found that providing food and shelter helps, so Islington residents can step-up for nature by managing their gardens for wildlife and putting up nestboxes.”

In Islington, the most common garden bird is the woodpigeon, followed by the blue tit and the blackbird. Starlings and house sparrows are in 6th and 7th places.

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Elsewhere, house sparrows remain one of Britain’s most common UK species and nationally retained the number one spot as the Big Garden Birdwatch’s most reported bird.

“With this in mind, it’s easy to be complacent,” said Mr Webb. “But here is a species that is dying out, and we don’t know why. That should ring alarm bells.”