A study by scientists from the RSPB, BirdLife International and the Czech Society for Ornithology has found that there are 247million fewer house sparrows in Europe than there were in 1980. This is a loss of almost half the house sparrow’s European population.
The species is believed to have declined largely because of modern farming practices, particularly the loss of standing winter stubble, and improved hygiene around grain stores. But house sparrows have also vanished from many towns and cities for reasons that have not yet been fully established. Shortages of food, particularly invertebrate prey for nestlings, diseases such as avian malaria, and air pollution have all been suggested as factors driving the fall in urban house sparrow numbers.
 Winter stubble field  RSPB nesting terrace for house sparrows
Urban house sparrows nest in cracks in walls, under the ivy, in roof spaces, sheds and derelict buildings. These are all places we have tidied up; modern building practices have closed the cracks and fissures that house sparrows traditionally used as nesting sites.
The RSPB has red listed the house sparrow, because it has lost more than 50% of its UK population in the past 25 years. Red is their highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action.
What can we do? For a start, we can stop using insecticides in our gardens and give the ants, grubs and caterpillars the chance of becoming sparrow food. We can put out mealworms on our bird tables when house sparrows are feeding their young: nestlings are not fed on crumbs and grain and they starve without invertebrate food. We can put up specially designed house sparrow nesting boxes under our eaves and encourage a noisy neighbourhood sparrow colony.
We can think twice before we buy that adorable kitten that will quickly grow into a ferocious predator. The Mammal Society has estimated that cats in the UK catch 27 million birds over the spring and summer and that house sparrows are probably the most frequently killed species.
We need to do better and look after our house sparrows.