Mr. Hitzeman's serious question whether it is appropriate to kill immigrant 
House Sparrows to preserve native Bluebirds deserves a serious reply, My 
reply was partly serious and then disintegrated into attempted humor when I 
began to think how ironic it really is that some Missourians want to do away 
with House Sparrows while Europeans are increasingly taking steps to protect 

I'll start over and stick to the serious part.

House Sparrows really are in serious trouble in European cities, as the 
article to which I provided a link  demonstrates.  See also;;

The decline was noticed first in Great Britain the 1920s. The initial 
declined paralleled the replacment of the horse by the auto and consequent 
diminution of "road apples" from which sparrows picked seeds. However, it 
appears to have accelerated since the 1970s for reasons that have nothing to 
do with the horse. It is estimated that the overall British House Sparrow 
population fell 65% between 1977 and 2000. The loss has been especially 
noticeable in urban parks. Thus, the number of sparrows in Kensington Palace 
Gardens, London, fell from 2500 in 1920 to just eight individuals in 2001. 
Londoners are facing the very real possibility that House Sparrows will 
become "locally extinct" in London.

Recently, the House Sparrow decline has spread to the European mainland, and 
Europeans are beginning to worry that a very common bird may become "locally 
extinct" there, too.

No one seems to know why the decline is occurring. Hypotheses include 
increased competition from other species, predation by cats and Sparrow 
Hawks (The Eurasian "Sparrow Hawk" is a bird-hunting accipiter), reduced 
nesting opportunities caused by modernization of buildings and less 
available food. None of these explanations makes any sense to an American 
like me, who is used to seeing House Sparrows aggressively seeking feeding 
and nesting opportunities in supermarket parking lots.

One hypothesis intrigues me somewhat. House Sparrows are quite sedentary, 
often staying close to their place of birth throughout their lives. Noticing 
that the steepest declines occurred in public parks, where presumably a 
population reproduces with little genetic diversity from generation to 
generation, one Brit has suggested that inbreeding may have something to do 
with population declines. But that is a far as he has been able to take his 

Now to Mr. Hitzeman's question. From an American perspective, House Sparrows 
are exotic interlopers, and Bluebirds, Missouri's state bird, are prettier 
and perhaps more desirable to have in the yard than sparrows. Exactly how 
much human intervention on behalf of the Bluebirds is justified is probably 
a matter of personal philosophy. Some of us are ready to kill when necessary 
and assure ourselves that the only good House Sparrow is a dead House 
Sparrow. Others of us don't  want to kill anything but would feel OK after 
trapping and relocating House Sparrows.  Some, who think the consequences of 
relocation through all of the way, only want to give the Bluebirds some sort 
of nesting advantage in the yard.  Nesting advantages range from piercing 
eggs (which comes pretty close to killing) to destroying House Sparrow nests 
soon after they are built to providing two holes in the nesting box.

Some, who look at the big picture, realize that Bluebirds are generally 
doing OK in Missouri, if not so well in yards, and are ready to let the 
sparrows have the yard while encouraging the development of Bluebird trails 
in more open country.

What if we were to adopt a European perspective? Europeans regard House 
Sparrows as attractive birds, which are desireable to have around. (Indeed, 
a male House Sparrow can be quite good looking when his plumage is bright 
and clean!) Brits also admire the sparrow's "cheeky" behavior, which can be 
equated with courage of a sort.

If we were to adopt a European perspective, we could easily see that beauty 
is in the eye of the beholder. A House Sparrow and an Eastern Bluebird 
really have equal value, and we should step aside to let them duke it out.

Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
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The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
Great Backyard Bird Count...2/15 through 2/18
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