Thursday, 18 August 2011

Making a Sparrow City in your Garden

House Sparrows have adapted to enivronments around the world, but over the past two decades their populations have declined by ten million in the United Kingdom.

Changes in modern farming practices that eliminate sources of insects Sparrow chicks are raised upon are some of the reasons for the decline. Others are due to the lack of eaves in modern commercial and domestic architecture design that have traditionally provided nesting sites protected from the weather and predators.

One way you can help encourage Sparrow life is to set aside a Sparrow Space in your garden. If you are lucky enough to attract several mating pairs you will find yourself with a Sparrow City.

Sparrows breed, nest and raise their chicks as a flock. The flock produces an abundance of SparrowChat - songs and calls - that will pepper your garden with the sounds of Spring and Summer throughout the day, particularly if they generate two broods of chicks. We count ourselves lucky to have SparrowChat from the middle of May to the end of August.

Our SparrowCity is centred upon a 25 year old Phoenix rose bush that has been left unpruned for many years. The upper branches reach the top of our first storey windows and have entwined to form a large hedge that provides insects, shelter from weather and safety from predators such as Magpies and Sparrowhawks. The lower branches are hung with seed, peanut and fat feeders. Sparrows hop down to the feeders on the rose branches.

The Phoenix Rose is bounded by a honeysuckle and ivy hedge on one side and an elderberry tree on the other. Like the rose, the honeysuckle and ivy provide insects. The elderberries are a favourite summer food.

Sparrows have been bringing their fledglings here for 15 years. The flock is currently six males and seven females who produced about 17 chicks in two broods.

You can provide nest boxes or 'sparrow terraces', but because we are across a small river from a small urban Nature Reserve, Sparrows have been able to nest in safety nearby.

Your Sparrow City should be safe from Cats - be sure the feeders are hung high enough to deter them and that they have no access to the hedges where they can hide and take the birds by surprise.

Feeder food is essential in a Sparrow City throughout the year. Sunflower seeds, peanuts and a range of fat products now available help increase young Sparrow survival over their first winter by providing energy producing oils. Feeders should be cleaned regularly to help prevent the rise and spread of avian flu/pox.

Ideally the Sparrow City should be sited so you can see it from your house interior. Pull up a chair and you will be provided with endless entertainment and joyful mayhem.

It may seem like a lot of work, especially in the winter months when we would all like to stay inside, but if you think you would enjoy a lively corner spot in your garden year after year, then a Sparrow City is for you!

Good luck!

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