I read an article earlier this week about the European Starling’s decline in the Netherlands. The number of starlings has been in decline there since the 1990’s. Unsurprisingly, the reason is habitat destruction.
The House Sparrow has also been suffering population loss in Europe due to habitat loss; there is a program to stimulate House Sparrow populations in the Netherlands and studies in Britain over the decline of the House Sparrow (and how about that nice logo?!).
The fact is that while these birds might be in trouble in Europe, where they are native species, starlings and House Sparrows are pests here in the United States. Non-native sparrows use up nest boxes and deny native cavity-nesting birds suitable habitat. A letter in the current issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest urges anyone who does not “have the heart to remove house sparrows’ [nests …] to take down the nest box. The house sparrows will find another place to nest, and you’ll give our native cavity-nesting birds a fighting chance to compete for survival.”
I find the problems the House Sparrows are both suffering (over there) and causing (right here) interesting. Having lived on their native continent for nearly a decade and knowing they are in serious trouble there I doubt I would have the heart to remove one of their nests (it’s a good thing I don’t have any nest boxes to look after) – even though I understand the serious threat they pose to native birds here.
I wonder what the reaction would be if a declining American bird was treated as a pest in another part of the world. Earlier this year (on April 1st, actually) a joke-rumor was spread on the internet that a population of Carolina Parakeets was found living in Honduras. What if the parakeet story were true but that Honduran farmers considered the fruit-eating birds to be a pest and were destroying their nests? Okay, this is a really bad example, because the House Sparrow is not in such dire straits in Europe (at this time). It’s just something I’ve been thinking about lately – every time I hear sparrows and starlings referred to as ‘trash birds.’