• 13 NOV 05
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    Where have all the sparrows gone?

    Milt Bowling, who forwarded on the below article, pointed out in his comments that accompanied his message that the reduction in native bird populations coincides time wise with the increase in wireless technology. There certainly is a wealth of information to support a connection but the researchers in the following article seem totally oblivious to the possibility that the decline may be at least partly due to the increase in environmental microwave levels. Why such a research blind spot when it comes to telecommunications? AND who would dare fund an investigation?


    Canadian Media Guild

    Where have all the sparrows gone?
    By Mary Wiens, CBCUnlocked
    Updated: Sep 27, 2005, 16:32

    As the old hymn has it, God has his eye on every little sparrow. However, even He may be having a hard time finding the once ubiquitous little birds because the North American population is declining. The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) shows that the number of house sparrows, once the most abundant bird species on the continent, has fallen by 62 per cent since 1966. In Canada, where the data is collected somewhat differently, the BBS estimate of their decline is even more dramatic — a drop of 75 per cent since 1966. No one really knows why there are fewer house sparrows, in part because they”™re a low priority for most researchers. Becky Whitham is a project manager with Project Feeder Watch, part of Bird Studies Canada, a non-profit conservation group.

    “The question of whether to care is an interesting one,” says Whitham. She sums up the attitude of many researchers towards house sparrows: “The most interesting thing is that they”™re an introduced species. They”™re declining. So what?”

    Birds were once annoyingly abundant

    Ever since house sparrows were brought from Europe to New York City in 1860, they”™ve been met with a combination of hostility and exasperation. Sparrows quickly drove out native species such as swallows, wrens and bluebirds from their nesting holes. Legend has it that in the late 1800s, house sparrows were so abundant that committee meetings in New York could no longer be conducted with open windows because the jabber of sparrows drowned out the voices inside.

    Tony Erskine, research scientist emeritus with the Canadian Wildlife Service, a branch of Environment Canada, says house sparrows are “untidy, noisy and quarrel a lot “” rather like people.”

    Speaking from his office in Sackville, N.B., Erskine says, local residents often go a month without seeing a house sparrow. “That was unthinkable 50 years ago.”

    Erskine uses data from the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Counts to monitor the decline in house sparrow numbers in the Maritimes. The longest-running bird count in the world, the Christmas Bird Counts started in 1900 and are done all over North America, including 500 in Canada. Each count covers a diameter of 24 kilometres.

    Erskine says the sparrow count for Sackville peaked at 1,000 in 1979. He first detected their decline in the 1980s. By 2001, the Christmas Bird Counts found only nine house sparrows in Sackville.

    Host of factors blamed for decline

    Why? Erskine says the only thing he can be sure of is that it”™s due to a host of factors. Global warming, fewer nesting places, changes in snow cover, industrial farming practices “” all may be contributing.
    This isn”™t the first time house sparrow populations have collapsed. Erskine says the 1920s saw another dramatic decrease, when horses were replaced by cars in cities across North America. Horse droppings carried a lot of undigested grain, a major source of food for house sparrows.

    Erskine speculates that with farms being run more like factories, the big farms have so much manure they”™re attracting larger species such as crows and gulls, which in turn drive away the tiny house sparrows.
    Like many other researchers, Erskine isn”™t particularly concerned about the decline of the house sparrow. “They”™re too common and too vulgar,” says Erskine. For his part, he”™s more concerned about the decline of many native species such as whip-poor-wills, chimney swifts, swallows and night hawks, particularly over the past 15 years.

    ‘Something’s wrong out there’

    But Jon McCracken, a project manager with Bird Studies Canada based in Port Rowan on Lake Erie, says the declining house sparrow populations can”™t be treated as a separate phenomenon. “If it were happening to people, we”™d be pressing the panic button. But house sparrows are so abundant, we still see them.”

    McCracken says the decline in house sparrow populations is happening all over the world, including Europe, where the sound of house sparrows around eaves and rooftops has been familiar for millennia.
    In North America, says McCracken, their decline receives no attention because house sparrows are an introduced species. “It”™s unfortunate,” says McCracken. “These are significant declines. It points to the fact that something’s wrong out there.”

    “The question,” says McCracken, “is why.” A question for which at this point, scientists have no conclusive answers.

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