Search

Could the cockney sparrow be making a comeback in Havering?

PUBLISHED: 07:00 01 October 2018

House sparrow Passer domesticus, male, in garden flowers, feeding. Pic: Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)

House sparrow Passer domesticus, male, in garden flowers, feeding. Pic: Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)

© RSPB-IMAGES AND ITS IMAGE CONTRIBUTORS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This image is protected by international copyright laws and dist

The cockney sparrow could be making a comeback.

Dr Caroline Nash and Dr Stuart Connop. Pic: JON KINGDr Caroline Nash and Dr Stuart Connop. Pic: JON KING

East London used to be a house sparrow stronghold but annual surveys by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) found populations crashing year after year from the mid-1970s.

They plummeted by around 70 per cent at the end of the 1990s.

Since then numbers have stabilised and there are high hopes they are starting to recover.

Results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch survey, which sees people reporting feathered friends spotted from their windows, suggests the humble sparrow is gaining in numbers in the borough.

Tim Webb from the RSPB. Pic: TIM WEBBTim Webb from the RSPB. Pic: TIM WEBB

Urban ecologist Dr Caroline Nash from the University of East London (UEL) suggested one reason for the drop was a lack of food with development and modern building design piling pressure on the species.

“Loft conversions have a lot to answer for,” Dr Nash said before explaining that sparrows like to nest under the eaves of houses but noisy human neighbours occupying roof space put them off.

Recent research suggested air quality played a role in their decline.

The top five birds in Havering in descending order after the top placed sparrow are the starling, wood pigeon, blue tit and blackbird.

Garden birds: Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, at bird feeders. Pic: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)Garden birds: Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, at bird feeders. Pic: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

Birds are a good way to monitor the environment because they are easy to see. They need fresh water, clean air and plenty of greenspace providing natural food and secure nesting sites.

When bird populations drop, it’s time to sit up and take notice of what’s happening to the environment – worms and fish are harder to count.

Drops in sparrow, starling and blackbird numbers prompted conservationists to monitor other species revealing hedgehogs, bats and fish were also suffering declines in number.

A review of hundreds of surveys found some 60pc of native wildlife declining.

Blackbird Turdus merula, male, on garden lawn.  Pic: Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)Blackbird Turdus merula, male, on garden lawn. Pic: Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)

Results for Greater London found grey squirrels and foxes dominating gardens with frogs in third place and toads in fourth. Hedgehogs were in sixth being seen in about a quarter of all gardens.

One threat facing species is the demand for housing land. This has turned the pressure up not just on green spaces but brownfield sites, industrial land developed in the past but no longer used. These can be wildlife havens.

Dr Stuart Connop from UEL explained: “They can be incredibly important sites. They are not disturbed very often and that suits nature.”

Green spaces around new housing developments can be heavily maintained with grass cut, flowerbeds pruned and hedges trimmed regularly.

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis, feeding from a garden feeder. Pic: RSPB (rspb-images.com)Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis, feeding from a garden feeder. Pic: RSPB (rspb-images.com)

But this doesn’t suit species which prefer wild spaces left unkept.

This includes the favourite food of birds – bugs. But “creepy crawlies” don’t get the credit or encouragement they deserve, according to Dr Connop.

“Insects have quite an image problem but they are the foundation stones for all these services. They pollinate crops and make the soil. Brownfield sites can be rich in these populations but they are at risk of disappearing,” Dr Connop said.

Private gardens also make a huge difference to bird numbers according to the RSPB and Havering is an ideal place to help them thrive.

Natterjack toad Epidalea calamita. Pic: Andy Hay/rspb-images.comNatterjack toad Epidalea calamita. Pic: Andy Hay/rspb-images.com

The charity’s Tim Webb said: “The issue of our shrinking wildlife is now widely recognised and accepted. That’s one battle won, but the war against pollution and unsustainable development continues.

“The new front is private gardens, where we need more people to give nature a home by greening the grey, allowing plants to breathe and wildlife to thrive.”

He explained that removing paving from gardens would help create a well-balanced natural environment good for nature as well as people’s physical and mental health.

“This is something people in Havering can do to help. No Government, charity or corporation is going to be able to legislate for or carry out this work. It’s down to individuals,” he said.

The next RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch takes place over the last weekend of January. Registration opens mid-December. Visit rspb.org.uk/birdwatch for more details.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Romford Recorder visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Romford Recorder staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Romford Recorder account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Romford News Stories

11:38

Police tasered a man in Collier Row after he threatened officers with a meat cleaver.

Wondering what the weather has in store for us this weekend? Watch our Met Office video forecast.

Christmas, the time of year when we are pressured to buy things no one wants for people we don’t want to buy for at prices we’re not happy with.

The discovery that a man who had been jailed for using his position as a police officer to prey on vulnerable women could have been allowed to work at Queen’s hospital without a compulsory background check is worrying both for staff and patients.

Yesterday, 17:05

A market trader from Newbury Park has been found guilty of torching a £260,000 Ferrari during an arson attack in Emerson Park that was revenge for a business deal gone wrong.

Yesterday, 16:18

Two of the three teenagers accused of taking part in a fatal knife attack which killed a 15-year-old outside a party in Collier Row have claimed they played no role in the incident.

Yesterday, 16:00

Whether visiting friends and family or going for that bargain in the sales, the rail network helps a lot of people to get around over the festive period.

Yesterday, 15:41

A Brentwood school has taken the Christmas crown in the annual Deck the Mall competition at the Liberty Shopping Centre thanks to one special pupil.

PROMOTED CONTENT

From November, The Mercury in Romford begins to celebrate Christmas. The mall has plenty of gift ideas, fun events and activities for everyone

Vauxhall has completed its sport utility vehicle range with the third, and largest, Grandland X. We put the SUV, now available at Tony LeVoi in Romford, to the test.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” so the saying goes. So if some warm weather is making your conservatory uninhabitable, think about replacing its roof with a flat one and adding a roof lantern instead.

Newsletter Sign Up

Romford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists

Education Promo

News from your area

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now