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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 11:17 GMT
Bid to save sparrows launched
Sparrow in bush
Sparrow numbers have dropped to 13 million, half the 1970s figure
Bird-lovers are being urged to help save the UK house sparrow, whose numbers have suffered a mysterious decline.

The government minister leading the campaign to boost the sparrow population has blamed their disappearance on "trendy gardens" and an explosion in the number of pet cats.

Ben Bradshaw, Minister for Nature Conservation, told the BBC: "The kind of trendy make-over of gardens has deprived sparrows of some of the food that they and their young need, particularly the young in their first year."

A government leaflet advises people on enticing the creatures back to gardens after a slump in numbers to about 13 million from a 1970s peak of 25 million.

'Dramatic decline'

Tips include leaving out food, avoiding mowing lawns intensively during the summer and leaving small, weedy patches.

Suggested treats for sparrows are bags of seeds and nuts, dry porridge oats, chopped bacon rind, uncooked pastry and dried cheese.

Mr Bradshaw added: "The cat population has exploded in Britain in recent years and still far too many owners of cats do not put bells around their cats' necks.

"The friendly chatter of sparrows is a much loved part of British life.

'Treasured bird'

"This is a very dramatic decline, but it is not irreversible.

"If we all play our part, the population of this treasured bird can be increased."

Dr Mark Avery, conservation director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said: "The house sparrow is the one bird in Britain where everyone can take action to help save it.

"With more help from more people everyone could once again have a chance of seeing sparrows from their front doorstep."


SEE ALSO:
Bat 'des res' put on hold
19 Feb 04  |  Wales
Plans to protect red squirrels
18 Feb 04  |  Scotland
Better news for UK breeding birds
03 Sep 03  |  Science/Nature


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