Saturday, 22 November 2008

How to Get Rid of Sparrows

The shooters were out again on Wednesday. My study looks out across the field to the release pen in the wood, where the captive bred birds are introduced to 'the wild'. The Dutch banned the rearing of birds so that they can be shot down for pleasure in 2002, regarding it as morally and environmentally insupportable. I have sympathy with their view.

A couple of years ago I found a sparrowhawk which used to perch on a drainpipe at the end of the house lying dead on the ground, and I have little doubt it ate poisoned bait (as probably did the pet dogs and cats which regularly go missing in the woods).

In 2006 The Times drew attention to the fact that 'Shooting Times' had published a list of the countryside's 'most wanted pests' - a list which included eagles, ospreys, red kite, buzzards, falcons, harriers and goshawks, together with otters and badgers.

I was reminded of this by the report about paving and decking being responsible for the fall in urban sparrow populations. It's not a new suggestion. Authoritative studies have also shown the fall to be due to aggressive magpies, cats, disease, climate change, pollution, unleaded fuel and mobile phone masts. I'm not convinced of the paving and decking argument, because numbers have also fallen massively in rural areas. Our sparrows all but disappeared some time in the 1990s. They reached a clamorous peak one year, in which we could barely hear ourselves think for the clamour of them in the eaves, then the following year, Bam! Not a sparrow to be seen. It was so sudden that I can only put it down to disease or a bird of prey.

Anyway, while we mourn the endangered sparrow and are urged to remove our decking and put up nesting boxes, a host of commercial pest companies are offering to rid our gardens of the pesky sparrow. For example Safeguard, 'The Pest Control People for London and the South East', advise that there are several methods available for controlling sparrow populations including use of pesticides. Countrywide Falconry And Pest Control Services Ltd offer "humane, fast, effective removal' of sparrows across London and the South East of England. The Pest Control UK Directory regards all birds as a source of disease, and says that keeping birds away from your lawns and gardens is not 'anti-environment'. They suggest use of spikes, nets, holographic and iridescent foil, sonic and ultrasonic devices, and
elimination of food sources for wild birds, such as spreading methyl anthranilate on the lawn to make it taste bad. These are the sort of people who don't like trees because leaves make the patio untidy.

Yesterday there was a quail with a damaged leg huddling by the garage, presumably injured the day before. But don't feel sad; fresh batches of fee-paying urban 'sportsmen' waddle out of the shoot trailer twice a week, so perhaps it'll provide gratification for one of them today.


  1. I mourn the loss of the sparrow, and am 100% inclined to blame pigeons for it - but then I have a tendency to become slightly mad and ranty about pigeons anyway. Vile, grubby, disease-ridden things that they are. To call them "rats with wings" is an insult to the intelligent, familial, loyal rat. AAAAAAnyway imagine my horror when I was recently told that the vast and gloriously picturesque flocks of wild green parrots that inhabit West London's parks are equally to blame. I'm torn now. I hate the pigeons and love the parrots.

  2. Men who come to the countryside and shoot things. Things which have usually been specially PUT there for them to shoot. WTF???

  3. To shoot & kill for 'sport' puzzles me. I prefer the camera. These creatures move me; I get much pleasure from them. Besides, they have friends in high places. We CLOUDias are fond of our little flying mates. Perhps we've ceased to deserve their sweet sparrow songs?

  4. You know, this got me in a flutter as we haven't seen many sparrows here for the past few uears either and I doubt it is because they went to the UK for the winter! There was some illness which dealt to ours apparently, but we also have heaps of starlings and magpies here...maybe they have something to do with it and the food chain "pecking" order (sorry, was not going to pun but decided to wing it...)

  5. Unless an animal is actively gnawing on the legs of your children or your own leg - or stealing so much food from you that you are genuinely in danger of starving - I cannot see why it should be labled "a pest" or why men feel they have the right to "control" them. I'm quite happy to have sparrows, eagles, wildcats and tigers roaming about freely in my garden. Though I do draw the line at the lesser spotted hoodie.

  6. Haha, Steve, or perhaps that rather over-rated indulgent wanker. they shouldn't be allowed in gardens either. Sorry BT, I have yapped twice. Ooops.

  7. Lucy - I quite like pigeons. They mate for life, so we have a lone one here that still sits on the fence where his partner was shot in the summer. But a solitary wood pigeon cooing in a tree is very different to hordes of chavvy town pigeons befouling those sunless wells behind the facades of town houses.

    Justme - Inexplicable, isn't it? It isn't as if they even eat them; many are simply buried.

    Cloudia - All power to your camera. Coming back as a bird would be good.

    Amanda - Perhaps they can't amass enough points to get back in? And you can yap as often as you like; you're always a welcome visitor to this yard.

    Steve - Absolutely. And I'd rather tigers than hoodies.

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