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Be a lazy gardener, let grass grow—and save our sparrow

PUBLISHED: 00:01 20 November 2008 | UPDATED: 13:48 05 October 2010

OUR world famous cockney sparrow is disappearing from East London and other urban areas of Britain because its chicks are starving to death. Too few insects in summer means young house sparrows have nothing to munch in their nests. Now the experts have come up with a solution—be lazy and let the garden go to seed

Mike Brooke

OUR world famous cockney sparrow is disappearing from East London and other urban areas of Britain because its chicks are starving to death.

Too few insects in summer means young house sparrows have nothing to munch in their nests, new research suggests.

But there’s a solution the experts have come up with which could please many reluctant gardeners—be lazy and let the grass go to seed.

“Do nothing and allow the garden to be a little bit scruffy,” suggests Dr Will Peach from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

He blames intensive development, the spread ornamental plants and trees being given the chop for causing the decline of the house sparrow.

Another major reason identified is home owners paving over front gardens to park their cars to avoid increased street parking restrictions by local authorities.

A study by scientists from the RSPB has been investigating the 20-year decline of sparrows.

“Our research shows too many chicks starving in their nests,” Dr Peach says.

“Others were fledging, but too weak to live for much longer.

“Young house sparrows were likely to die where there were few insects—they need insects rather than seeds, peanuts or bread to survive.”

House sparrows declined in London by 68 per cent between 1994 and 2007 and have almost completely vanished from some areas of inner London. Work is underway to discover how we can bring them back.

The RSPB suggests more wildlife friendly’ gardening such as creating patches of wildflowers, planting native shrubs and having a small pond to harbour more food chain’ insects—as well as letting the grass grow.


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