I spent a week in London recently. To this former Englishman,the city is brighter and more interesting than it has ever been in my lifetime.
London is a wonderfully diverse city, full of people speaking an encyclopedia of languages. It is a noisy, lively place.
But there is a strange silence.
The House Sparrow – the cockney sparra – has all but disappeared.
House sparrows in Britain have declined by 68 per cent since 1977. In London, they have vanished. Their disappearance is a mystery although it is possible that declining numbers of insects are the cause.
This is not just happening in England, it’s happening all over the world. Indian ornithologists report a decline of 70%. The sparrow population of Paris has plummeted to 50%. And so on.
There are lots of theories as to the decline. The British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is engaged in a project, The London House Sparrow Parks Project http://www.rspb.org.uk/whatwedo/projects/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-235650#objectives
How can the common house sparrow disappear ? And if such a once ubiquitous bird has all but vanished, what is next ?