Birds & Birding

Where Have All the House Sparrows Gone?

a small bird
A male house sparrow. Photo © Dean Morley / Flickr

I look out my window, and they’re everywhere: hundreds of house sparrows flit around our shrubs, hop around the yard, and steal food from our backyard chickens.

At this time of year, the males puff up and display, making them appear like much larger birds. They cheep incessantly, often drowning out other birdsong.

Given their constant presence, it seems odd to be writing this: House sparrow populations have been declining worldwide, including in their native range.

House sparrows are often considered one of the most adaptable birds, capable of thriving amongst our farms, suburbs and cities. The real story of their spread and decline is a bit more complex, and may have implications for urban conservation.

The Sparrow Fad

The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is native to Eurasia, but beginning in the mid-1800s, it spread around the globe. Largely due to intentional releases by humans, house sparrows are now found on every continent except Antarctica, as well as many islands. It is the most widespread wild bird on earth.

As with many aspects of conservation history, many of the details of sparrow introductions are poorly documented. The first introduction to North America was to New York City in 1851 or 1852, although the 8 pairs released seemed to fare poorly. However, this set off a wave of introductions throughout the United States.

For a time, some sources refer to a “sparrow fad,” with private individuals breeding birds, and others catching them and releasing them into new areas. Nest boxes were installed in cities to increase sparrow populations. Ornithologists and others raised concerns over the merits of house sparrows, but their arguments proved futile against sparrow enthusiasts releasing cages full of birds.

The reason for many of these reasons was for pest control. For instance, their 1868 introduction to Philadelphia was apparently an effort to control inchworms. As with so many such pest control efforts, the cure proved worse than the disease. They thrive on a variety of foods, including spilled grain and even garbage.

The house sparrow is also an aggressive little bird. It nests in cavities, and pushed out native species like Eastern bluebirds. Backyard birders who erect birdhouses have undoubtedly noticed house sparrows bullying wrens and other native species.

Public sentiment turned quickly against the house sparrow. By the 1880s, just three decades after the first introduction, several U.S. cities paid bounties for the birds. But by then the bird was firmly established – and spreading.

a bird on a branch
A house sparrow at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, California. Photo © Becky Matsubara / Flickr

Recent research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that house sparrows underwent genetic changes, including modified skull development and a gene that helps create the enzyme amylase that helps break down starch. The researchers hypothesized that these changes helped sparrows adapt to human settlements dominated by agricultural fields and livestock. The sparrows, according to the research, diverged from other Old World sparrows around 11,000 years ago, just as agriculture was taking hold in the Middle East.

The house sparrow appears to be a clear winner in the Anthropocene: an adaptable bird capable of thriving equally well on cities and in farms.

But over the past few decades, ornithologists have noted a new trend: house sparrows are in widespread decline. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, house sparrow numbers in North America have declined by 84 percent since 1966. In Philadelphia, the city where the sparrows were introduced to control inchworms, the birds have largely disappeared.

Many birders view this as a good-news story. After all, house sparrows compete with native species and are generally viewed as a pest. However, the bird is experiencing similar declines in many parts of its native habitat, including the United Kingdom and Western Europe.

In England, house sparrow populations have declined by half. The species is listed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds as a species of high conservation concern. While the United Kingdom population has recently stabilized, the bird remains of concern to conservationists. European countries now recognize a World Sparrow Day to raise awareness of the plight of this once-abundant species.

What happened?

A house sparrow scrounging crumbs in an urban area. Photo © Brian Henderson / Flickr

Sparrow Falling

Theories abound as to why house sparrows have declined. The answer likely lies in a combination of factors, all tied to rapid changes in both cities and farms. House sparrows may be highly adaptable, but that doesn’t mean they can thrive with every modification humans make to the environment.

The first house sparrow decline was actually reported in the 1920s, when automobiles began widely replacing horses. Sparrows feasted on the huge amount of spilled grain found in cities. When that food source was removed, sparrow populations decreased.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and others note that changing agricultural practices likely play a significant role in the current sparrow decline. Once, farms were diverse, with crop fields and livestock barns scattered across the landscape. New, clean, intensified monocultures result in less spilled grain, and less cover around fields. In many parts of the world, other birds associated with farmland are also in decline.

Livestock is more frequently raised in confined operations, sometimes even indoors. All this results in fewer opportunities to feed on grain.

Similarly, city sanitary practices have improved, which may make finding meals more difficult for sparrows.

Research published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution found that a combination of poor diet and air pollution induced physical stress on house sparrows, leading to reduced reproductive success.

The widely reported global insect decline may also be a significant factor. Many think of house sparrows as vegetarians, gobbling bird seed and grains. But, as with many birds, they rely on protein-rich insects to feed their young.

birds on a bush in the city
A house sparrow flock in Washington, DC. Photo © Mr.TinDC / Flickr

Implications for Urban Conservation

There are still 540 million house sparrows flying around the planet, so this bird is not in danger of going extinct. It’s still abundant in many places – including my neighborhood, where a mix of native vegetation, bird feeders and backyard chicken coops provide the diversity of habitat and food sources that enables these birds to thrive.

So why is the house sparrow decline important?

In part, it shows how little we understand urban ecology. Even conservationists often assume that common, adaptable species will be able to adapt to any change. That’s clearly not the case.

All ecosystems change, but human environments often change rapidly. If we’re thinking about protecting biodiversity in cities – and in a world that will have 9 billion people, we have to – we have to think about how changes impact wildlife. Just as modification to a tropical forest affects wildlife, so too do changes in farming practices, changes in city design, even changes in bird feeding habits.

I wouldn’t miss the house sparrow from my neighborhood. It’s an invasive species that competes with native birds. But globally, the sparrow’s decline is a story we should heed, as it may help us better understand how to coexist with nature in the Anthropocene.

Join the Discussion

Please note that all comments are moderated and may take some time to appear.


  1. In Reynolds, Indiana the House Sparrows live in the Honeysuckle vines by the house. The biggest danger for them is the Red Tailed Hawk that lives somewhere near my house. We watched the hawk swoop down and pick a sparrow right off the ground. Interesting read !

  2. We have an abundance of them in my yard in Indianapolis, Indiana. We have a lot of House Wrens as well, and the two seem to get along alright.

  3. can we quit calling species, invasive, since they did not invade any where. they were captured and released. they were removed from their native places and brought her for amusement or commerce. anthrocentric language sucks and is not accurate and just promotes more anthrocentrism

  4. Just about every reason listed should impct more than just house sparrows and more than just sparrows.Many bird species are in decline but not all. If the highly adaptable and fairly agressive house sparrow is in decline shold it not be even worse for other sparrows and other birds using the same food and nesting sources? There must be more to this mystery.

  5. I have noticed a huge decline in various bird numbers in recent years. You have not mention the pesticide plague from Dow &Monsanto, to name a few of the chemical giants, destroying our environment & natural world.

    Give me spots on my apples. but save me the birds & the bees…..
    Please. ….

    1. Totally agree…and pesticides and herbicides use are a consequence of a change in cultural norms and perceptions..probably fostered by the very companies selling us pesticides etc…Most younger than 50 Americans I know are terrified of insects, mice, snakes etc..Their notion of ” nature” is of a carefully sanitized, deodorized, well policed world where only cute poodles, declawed indoor cats and song birds have a place.

      1. Around here they rarely even get outside. The millennials flooding Denver live in boxes without yards or even balconies. lots and lots of people, not much wildlife. The politicians encourage them to come because they want more tax money to spend.

  6. For years the English house sparrows gobbled up almost all the seeds I put out in my feeder. The only birds strong enough to fight them off were the cardinals. Finally, I tried plain safflower seed which apparently is not to their liking and they quit coming to my feeder. Finally other native birds can now feed like purple finches, chick-a- dees and nuthatches. I live in the city but have a decent size yard.

    Is there any bird species that likes red amaranth. It volunteers in my garden every year?

  7. When I took an ornithology course at Cornell I was told they were introduced to help clean up the horse manure littering urban streets. But they have done just fine around here in south-central Iowa until this year when I saw very few at the feeders although purple finches and house finches were just as abundant as ever. There has been a great dieback of insects due to increasingly toxic insecticides and that may well be a cause. Honey bees were as scarce as monarchs. Not just monarchs, as people notice, but all species of butterflies and moths and even grasshoppers. There was only one species of sphinx-moth last year, and showy species like swallowtails were very scarce.

  8. Thank you for your article. I live in a large eastern European city. When I moved into my present apartment in 2003, there was still a decent flock of house sparrows living in my immediate surroundings (lots of small yards in the neighborhood – it’s not what you would call an ‘urban jungle’). Then the buildings in my neighborhood began to be winterized, all the nooks and crannies were now inaccessible under a layer of styrofoam insulation and a skim coat of plaster. Then the city started intensively mowing a block-long wide swath of lawn across the street, so the ground cover there could not mature and release its seeds – I wondered how this may have impacted the ability of the birds to forage in winter. And slowly, the population began to disappear. For a few recent years, I heard no house sparrows, only tree sparrows, if any at all. I wish someone here would do more studies on this, because, for example, I was thinking that people in the US have been mowing public spaces and private lawns for years, and it didn’t seem to affect the house sparrow population – at least not in the 1980s, when I was still living there (but perhaps a decline was underway then that we didn’t see). The population seems to be making a small comeback here – last year and this, efforts are being made to set up colonial nest boxes for them (it remains to be seen if they actually use them) and certainly bird feeding in winter has become more popular (it was basically nonexistent when I arrived in 1991). House sparrows are still very common and numerous in rural villages – but as you note, changes in agricultural and livestock practices, especially since accession to the EU, are radically changing the rural landscape. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years, and I will try to find some local research on this topic.

  9. I live in Hebron, In. I have sparrows all year long in my yard, a black bird with a white beak, comes to my yard this time of year and goes into the sparrows nests and eats the eggs , kills the babies and destroys the nest, I am hateing this black bird. I have a few red birds and blue jays, wood peckers, wrens and soon the hummers will be here. The blue bird and Orioles pass thru, don’t stay long but I love to see them. I used to have barn swallows , but they seem to be less each year. A few bats, I love to feed the birds, and yes, I have one brown hen and she is the boss when seed feeding time come s in the morning. Oh, and this year I am flooded with 8 baby squirrels. Help, these little demons are funny to watch but very destructive , tree branches all over my yard and u know how they eat all the bird seed?? ??????????

  10. Well. Apparently, our bird feeder and two large arbor vitaes have become a sparrow hotspot. We also have the ring-necked dove, mourning dove, and, just yesterday, a red-headed finch. Last year, we even had a Woodhouse Jay, since our neighbor has a Colorado blue spruce and we planted a burr oak. We love the crazy variety, even entertaining a peregrine falcon one night that I think we perusing our 1/4-acre lot for the other critters we occasionally glimpse, and, probably, the birds. It didn’t seem to score and only stayed for two days. I think I’m glad to be able to answer where the house sparrows have gone. I can safely answer, at least on OM, here. Oh yes, here. Over the few years, since we confined our cats to indoor only, and gave them a cat tree that faces the bird feeder, we have watched a steady increase in our population. Last year, they welcomed a lost parakeet, to my shock. I don’t why they all get along, but they do.

    We are in the process of putting in more trees & bushes to accommodate our feathery tenants, but, at this time, they flit between our yellow-rose thicket, arbor vitaes, locust, and acorns. I hope our little ecosystem, in which we allow no pesticides or herbicides, ensure there will be continue to be places for birds, bees, and other critters.

  11. Interesting article! My father-in-law told us stories about earning money as a kid through the bounty on sparrows. We live on a farm. We had a very profitable side hustle in the 1980’s of trapping fur bearing animals and selling pelts. The market bottomed out in the 1990’s when animal rights groups made it unfashionable. Now all nests around are routinely raided by raccoons, Fox, mink, muskrats etc. Thanks for listening, that’s our theory.

  12. Send the damn things out of here. I finally had to take my nest boxes down because house sparrows were ambushing adult chickadees and swallows in their nest boxes and killing them by pecking out their eyes and into their brain through the eye sockets. Then they would kill the nestlings the same way and pitch bodies out of the houses and take houses over. Found adults and nestlings on the ground below the boxes. If that wasn’t bad enough, when I eliminated one of a pair of sparrows by trapping them in the nest boxes, the surviving bird would go on a killing spree at the remainder of my boxes. Good article:

  13. Why does the Nature Conservancy spray Roundup in Northern California?

  14. Many think little of the House Sparrow, but look at those pictures you have posted. Those Males are beautiful. I’m 90, living at the North Dakota Veterans Home. Can’t do alot of the things I’d like to do anymore (Tho I do plan on participating on a CROP Hunger Walk this Wednesday). I have a bird station that is visited faithfully by about 30 Sparrows, until the Grackle’s show up in the spring — then they get scarce. Summer and winter, their favorite trees are the cars parked outside. Winter there is warmth there – Summer there are insects to clean up. Ah, I like them. Thanks for your article.

  15. Can’t help but remember that thoughtful song “My Eye is on the Sparrow”?and I know He thinks of me.

  16. I asked myself the same question a few days ago, when looking out our kitchen window, I wondered why I wasn’t seeing sparrows in the numbers I remember seeing by this time in the spring. I miss them, never did take them for granted, busy little birds, fun to watch.

  17. Sad that you wouldn’t miss the house sparrows – I would. Though they are invasive, they have certainly naturalized and have been a part of my life in every home I have lived in. They are a reliable part of our life and their loss would take away part of my outdoor family, not to mention the sadness I would feel knowing that it was caused by a decrease in an important part of their diet – insects. (And the effect on our greater world caused by loss of insects.)

  18. Here’s a suggestion to keep house sparrows out of your nest boxes: make sure the opening is large enough only for bluebirds and smaller cavity-nesting birds. House sparrows are bigger and if they can’t get into the nest box they can’t kill the nestlings. Check out various web sites about the right size for the opening of a nest box and buy/make a nest box specifically designed for bluebirds. Even if bluebirds don’t use it, chickadees or titmice might but no house sparrows.

    1. Your statement that House sparrows cannot enter the correct size hole for a bluebird is totally incorrect. The correct size for eastern and western bluebirds is 1 1/2 inch, and it is easily accessed by House sparrows.

  19. In Seattle, English House Sparrows have all but disappeared and I don’t miss them. But it is sad to come across a lone sparrow calling and calling with no answer. House Finches have replaced them at the feeders and Juncos on the ground. Our native sparrows can get their fair share as well.

  20. Here in NH the House Sparrows always were in my two neighbors hedges and would come over here to my feeders raising havoc with all my songbirds. They would take over the feeders and terrorize my nesting Wrens and Chickadees. I began putting branches over the top of the nest boxes and that helped as the male will sit atop the birdhouse he’s “claimed” and chirp his brains out. When he couldn’t sit on top they left the box alone. I always chase them away, they are indeed murderous birds and I’ve seen how they peck into the brains of Bluebirds, Chickadees and their young to take over a nest box. Last year at our cabin in Maine on a peninsula in the middle of nowhere came the House Sparrows! They tried to nest in my nest boxes and I wasn’t about to let them reproduce on MY watch! No way!! The Bluebirds had successfully fledged so I would prop open the nest box door – the House Sparrows would sit on top like idiots that couldn’t figure out how to get into the box when it was wide open. After emptying 5 nest boxes of their tangled mess of a nest they finally went away. I hope not to see any this year!! Here at home both neighbors got rid of those hedges so hopefully the House Sparrows found somewhere far away to set up residence so they stay out of my yard. Native birds have declined it’s plain to see for anyone who feeds them or bird watches…we don’t need these House Sparrows stealing their food and nests to make matters even worse.

  21. There should be a ban on inch worm pescidesit might be killing the butterfies as well

  22. I have failed to find a satisfactory answer to what specifically urban folk can do to help revive the declining sparrow population. Any tried and tested suggestions?

  23. In Oak Park IL we have a thriving population. There is a large group the dive bombs from bushes on one side of the yard to shelter on the other. I limit my feeders to sunflower seeds and thistle to attract the cardinals and goldfinches. We have Mourning Doves, and Juncos pass through on migration. The one species really reduced from our regular horde is the goldfinch. We see far fewer of them than 5 years ago.

  24. If people are missing Sparrows, they should come to Baldwin, New York. We have scads of them. I don’t Notice any decline in them in the 50 years we’ve been here. On any given day there are 12 to 20 of them on our platform feeder, compared to 2 or 3 Chickadees, House Finches, Downy Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, etc. I must add that our Cardinal population is also large. On a good day we have 15 to 20.

  25. With the decline in House Sparrows in many urban areas, are they actually being replaced by other, preferably native, species, or is there a diminishment of birds overall?

  26. I believe we would all miss their songs!
    In Mount Dora, Fl many of our itches claim a battered favorite hanging plant that has been usurped by their current nest and a bit of a mess.
    I can’t bring myself to mind. Their songs make that bit of bother worthwhile and sometimes they do a better job than I on scolding the next door cats off our front porch!

  27. It remains a mystery to me how young scientific biologists and ecologists working with meta data can be totally blind to the basic truths any older person raised on a family farm knows…Yes, species are adaptable but NOT to very fast changes in the conditions that affect their basic needs…like food, water and nesting sites. The massive use of pesticides has decimated insects and all insect eaters. The move to industrial monoculture relies on pesticides/herbicides . The move to mechanized harvesting and indoor stock management has MASSIVELY reduced available food for seed eaters. In addition species (like sparrows, barn swallows etc) that requirea roof over their heads to nest have been decimated by our changing building standards and materials that are designed to provide no entry, by our felling trees with holes..WHERE are cavity nesters to go?…… Many of them are living in our attic and barn roof?…

  28. Fascinating report. I had no idea the house sparrow is declining. I do believe we are all interconnected and that what happens to one species has impact on other species.

  29. For a period of time a few years ago I noticed that aggressive house finches seemed to be displacing house sparrows. But now the sparrows seem to be making a comeback even tho the finches are still quite prevalent. They appear to be making an accommodation to each other here in urban southern Wisconsin.

  30. Sparrows are abundant in Osawatomie,KS where I live. I have seen a clear decline in native song birds here. Cardinals, blue jays, tufted titmouse, doves, cow birds, red wing black birds, wood peckers, this is just a few. What we have an overabundance of is European starlings. We have them in huge family groups. They are taking over the native song bird habitat.

  31. I would miss them in my Queens, NYC neighborhood. I like to see them taking advantage of any scrap or crumb left behind by people and bathing in a puddle after rain. They add movement and chattering song to an otherwise gray environment.

  32. Thank you for caring! In my yard I provide food, shelter and water and places to reproduce. I never use pesticides and continue to ask my neighbors to use other methods.

    My yard is full of the songs and my neighbors years are much quieter. If we provide what they need, wildlife will come to the islands of safety!

  33. Sparrows are bigger in Texas; seriously.
    And they appear to be thriving there

  34. William Leon Dawson, author of the four volume Birds of California (1923), wrote:
    “Without question the most deplorable event in the history of American ornithology was the introduction of the English Sparrow. The extinction of the Great Auk, the passing of the Wild Pigeon and the Turkey,__sad as these are, they are trifles compared to the wholesale reduction of our smaller birds, which is due to the invasion of this wretched foreigner.”
    He lists 9 “charges” against this species, and ends with, “He is vermin and must be treated as such, but give the Devil his due, of course. What are we going to do about it? Wage unceasing warfare, as we do against rats. …..etc, etc… His discussion of the English Sparrow went on for 4 pages..
    Your article about this species is very interesting, but I felt compelled to show another viewpoint.

    1. I don’t disagree with Dawson’s viewpoint. Sparrows are invasive in many parts of the world, including where I live. But I find their decline intriguing; it calls to question what we think we know about the adaptability of abundant wildlife. It is especially interesting given that house sparrows are also declining in their native range.

      Many thanks for commenting.


  35. I don’t see as many birds In New Hampshire as I have when I lived in Bridgton, Maine. The condo I live in does not allow feeding birds anymore to my dismay.
    I use to have a variety of birds it seems they have gone to greener pastures, sadly.
    Now I plant as many lupine, coneflowers, daisys, bee balm along with other perennials as I can for all the birds, butterflys and humming birds.
    The condo asso has put out some kind of black boxes with poison in then, I am beside myself with this nonsense! Other residence are out spraying roundup because they do not like the danderlions in turn they are killing the grass along with the few bees i have managed to attract. These people don’t realize that poisons are not the answer. I for one would love any type of bird.
    A year ago I had a sparrow feeding a large bird I was shocked, everdently a cow bird layed her eggs in a sparrows nest! I have it on video!
    Thank you for your interest of wild life, would appreciate any feed back on how to cohabitate with ignorant people who harm our surroundings in nature.

  36. Why couldn’t this article be reporting on a decline in the Starling population?… I too, am not sad that House Sparrows are in decline.

    I do have a few Song Sparrows that infectiously (?) occupy the front of my home – LOVE their song.

  37. Shame on you, Matthew, for the unwelcome discussion of the House Sparrow. Do you know how many of these birds have killed our native cavity-nesters, like Eastern Bluebirds, Chickadees, and Tufted Titmice.
    The House Sparrow is not native to the U.S. – where it is an alien species. As a member of the Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania I work hard to limit the success of the HOSP. There are still – in a very conservative estimate – about 4 House Sparrows for every 1 bluebird. Your

    1. Hi Marilyn,
      Thanks for your comment. I am just reporting on an interesting phenomenon. In fact, in my concluding paragraph, I write “I would not miss the house sparrow from my neighborhood.” The story covers the history of the introduction of the sparrow. And nowhere did I suggest we try to reverse that decline in areas where the sparrow is not native.

      The house sparrow is also declining in its native range, which is what makes this an interesting conservation issue. A species most of us in the United States know as invasive, is also a species of conservation concern in the UK and other parts of its native range. Thanks again for taking time to comment. Matt

  38. In my urban neighborhood there used to be pigeons everywhere, not the native type. I,m surprised that the native birds, mourning doves have replaced them. I can’t imagine why. We have lots more robins and they are staying around. I’m not sure about the sparrows. I see more raptors above this spring, too.
    Mary Lizie

  39. I noticed many fewer sparrows in our suburban neighborhood in Tidewater , Virginia about ten or more years ago. Sparrows used to be the birds that commonly crowded around the steps of the house. Now I notice many more diverse birds in the neighborhood. Occasional sparrows are still here, but they are not the most common anymore. Now that I have bird feeders, I see many kinds of birds close up and handily identifiable and no longer are they . mosty sparrows.

  40. These house sparrows are also called Weaver finches. I, too, enjoy seeing them. The decline of fellow species should draw everyone’s attention. Climate change endanger’s all life and poses the greatest threat facing civilization. Climate change has caused mass extinctions in the past and is contributing to the sixth extinction which we are experiencing. It must be addressed now. Jim Weaver

  41. I live in Philadelphia and I feed in my front yard and back yard.This past winter I had 2 flocks of sparrows numbering 50 sparrows each.

  42. I wonder if farmers planting seeds treated with insectisides might be killing birds. I live in a rural area and I have noticed crop fields are completely void of bees and butterflys. Farmers used to have bee boxes for pollination but I seldom see them now.

  43. House sparrows do not SEEM to be in decline here in the Mid-Willamette Valley of Oregon. Is there data from here that supports a decline? I find that house sparrows will utilize the various sized and styled wooden bird houses that are being distributed here in our area intended for many different species by the Yamhill County Soil and Water Conservation District, with only swallows being a species that likes to use them as designed and intended.

  44. We have had house sparrows for a long time. They nest above our outdoor speakers and thoroughly enjoy their cozy spot. Needless to say, we don’t play music on it, while they are in residence. We live above a canyon with full views of the ocean .

  45. I still have to toss out house (English)sparrow eggs from my blue bird nests. Upstate New York

  46. In Oaxaca city, Mexico, a long term monitoring shows a decline of 40%. There is no reason of change of agriculture, building or others facts. The unique reason I found so far, it is a increase of parasites eating the keratine of the legs. As cavity nesters, the option of nesting is low and obligatory the same. So may be a reason.

  47. I have seen declining numbers over the past three years, however some days I am inundated and they are feisty. Two days in a row I have seen both male and female House sparrows feeding their young. This is a moderate size city suburb in the southeast. They may be somewhat bothersome, but starlings……..

  48. I love house sparrows and miss them. Back in the 1990s we had huge flocks in the neighborhood. Now, not so much.

  49. In my years with the Christmas bird count in Denver I have also noticed a decline in house sparrows. Not sure yet if I am sad about that. I have also noticed a decline in American robin numbers the past couple of years.

  50. Last year here in the Denver area there were hundreds of sparrows at my feeder and bird bath, I haven’t seen one yet this year. we’ve had a couple snow / freezes after a couple of false starts of spring. Of course course I don’t know if that’s part of the problem or not. No Sparrows. It’s just weird.
    We only have a few kinds of birds around here. Eastern Jays , Robins, finches, crows, seagulls, geese, Prairie falcons and doves. once a year in the spring I see a small red headed woodpecker and an occasional nuthatch, thats it.
    Its a bird desert!

  51. Last year here in the Denver area there were hundreds of sparrows at my feeder and bird bath, I haven’t seen one yet this year. we’ve had a couple snow / freezes after a couple of false starts of spring. Of course course I don’t know if that’s part of the problem or not. No Sparrows. It’s just weird.
    We only have a few kinds of birds around here. Eastern Jays , Robins, finches, crows, seagulls, geese, Prairie falcons and doves. once a year in the spring I see a small red headed woodpecker and an occasional nuthatch, thats it.
    Its a bird desert!
    I wonder if the prairie hawk scared them out of this area, but i haven’t seen him or her yet either.

  52. Sparrows Have Disappeared

    The sparrows have disappeared completely from the cities at least four years ago in Britain, as mobile phones grew in popularity. Third generation (3G) mobile phones were introduced in 2003, and there were over 65 million users in the UK by the end of 2005, more phones than people (ISIS 2007)
    Scientists at the Research Institute for Nature and Forests in Brussels, Belgium, have produced the first evidence that mobile phone base stations are affecting the reproductive behaviour of wild sparrows. This finding comes as mobile phones are held suspect in the massive collapse of bee colonies all over the United States and Europe. Fewer house sparrow males were seen at locations within relatively high electric field strengths of GSM base stations (ISIS 2007)

  53. Interesting discussion. My central New Jersey backyard’s Blue Bird and Tree Swallow populations were displaced by House Sparrows about 15 years ago, with the House Sparrows thriving ever since. This year I have noticed for the first time that nesting boxes are empty and HS sightings are rare, while other sparrow and finch pops seem normal.

  54. […] There are lots of theories about why.  You can find some of those reasons in the article Where Have All the House Sparrows Gone?  Laura, over at Poetry Pix wrote a beautiful poem about house sparrows: the theory of sparrows.  […]

  55. I live in Queensland Australia and I remember as a child that house sparrows were everywhere, we used to trap them in the chicken runs. I now live in an outer suburb of Brisbane and have not seen a house Sparrow for years. I am wondering if the introduction of the Indian Minor has driven them out, or worse, killed them off.
    There is a lot of bush land where I live now. I can’t see any reason why they have disappeared.

  56. We have many house and other sparrows that live in areas around the Dallas metroplex. Of course, most people in my neighborhood have bird feeders . We also have blue jays, cardinals, several kinds of the titmouse, wood peckers, an occasional mockingbird, and many, many doves that come to feed and use the bird baths.

  57. I am a little surprised to see no mention of the reduction of available nesting sites for house sparrows since the modernisation of housing. I think that the closing out of orifices in modern buildings and modernised may well restrict the success of the house sparrow today? In my Hampshire UK neighbourhood house sparrows are virtually non-existent in modern housing estates, surviving it seems in areas featuring mostly old buildings with many nooks and crannies providing safe nesting sites. This may appear to be a simple conclusion but maybe a very important part of the jigsaw?

  58. One reason they may be declining in my area is because I shoot them with a pellet gun,they’re totally invasive when it comes to other species their beak is harder than the beaks of most other species so they always win the fight, they get in the nesting boxes and nest of other species and Destroy eggs.
    As far as I’m concerned they can blow away like Dust in the Wind.
    I call them the Cockroaches of the bird species.



  60. I assume you are familiar with the Tadeus Zagajweski tale of the aging philosopher who was asked: “ what in life has mystified you?”
    The reply: “the ubiquity of sparrows”.

    Ken Ytuarte, Catskill, NY

  61. We haven’t had any type of flocking birds in the last two summers here in Sacramento, CA. But, it is all over the state; no flocks of birds. No finches, sparrows, etc. All we have are pigeons and a few hummers. We drove by the almond and walnut orchards without seeing one bird flying around, let alone a flock. Used to see lots of egrets, but most are gone too from the rice fields. You might see one or two where flocks used to be. Nothing is being said in the news…what happened to them?

  62. Gone , I noticed within the last ten years, the families of Sparrows have disappeared from my bushes and trees all around our house, we have walnut orchards and there are not a one around . I would go out on our porch and they would follow me around. THEY ARE FLAT GONE ! I Haven’t seen one in years, it’s so sad. In fact I hardly see any birds! We have a small fruit orchard with every kind of fruit tree , yet no birds eating the fruit like in the past. We don’t use pesticides. There was a time when the fruit got ripe and we would get up one morning and there would be No fruit, because the birds got to it first. We miss them, we do not hear or see the Mockingbird or Meadow Larks, the Robins or those mean Blue Jays. Something is in the air that is killing them off or something they are eating. They used to take Canaries into mine to detect if the air was bad, remember what happened to them. That should tell us all something!

  63. This morning we dropped by our other walnut orchards about ten miles away from where we live on our other walnut orchard property, we wanted to check and see if there were birds out there near Valley Home, near Oakdale, California. We did not hear or see not one, WHERE HAVE ALL OUR BIRDS GONE ! All I ever see is Hawks, that I keep an eye on because of my Yorkie and small Poodle. We do have a few doves, only because our neighbor raises them. I really miss all of our song birds, living in the country most of my life I am used to hearing them. There is No sounds of birds.

  64. I live in a residential area of Brooklyn, NY with many trees. I have been leaving Bird Feeders out in my backyard with various seeds and one with Black Seed only, for about 40 years. We had a huge Oak and a very large Maple tree in my neighbors yard. I always had Cardinals, House Finches, Blue Jays and House Sparrows at the feeders with an occasional Hawk in the Oak tree (Red-Tailed and Coopers) and of course the ever present New York Pigeon (Rock Dove) which loved my garage roof. . During the year a pair of Downy Woodpeckers would grace us with their presence in the old Maple tree and at a Suet Feeder we left out for them. They all added a certain beauty to my Back Yard when I looked out the window. In the Spring and early Summer we were blessed with Mockingbird’s high up in the Oak and their beautiful song. A few years ago my neighbor decided to cut down the Oak which was about 75 to 100 years old and very healthy and strong. She also cut down the Maple tree. Shortly after that all the birds with the exception of the House Sparrows and a few House Finches disappeared. The Mockingbirds still come back each year, but not as many as before. My point is that without trees in Urban residential areas, House Sparrows and of course pigeons would be the only birds we would ever see closeup. I personally am happy to look out my window now and see and hear the little House Sparrow at the feeders. Simply Planting more trees and replacing those that are cut down is one of the best ways to maintain the bird populations and the variety of birds; and to help with Global Warming.

  65. Hi,

    I’m in Watertown MA and for the last 14 years we have been supporting a ton of sparrows and other singing birds. We use to go through about 7 pounds of bird seed a day. I noticed that about a month ago, the birds have suddenly stopped coming to our feeder and we don’t hear any birds in the morning like we normally do. Any idea what could have caused their disappearance? Is there an abundance of summer food somewhere else that they don’t need to come to the feeder or could something have caused them to abandon our feeder or displaced their nesting area? We have never experienced this before as our yard and neighborhood has always had an abundance of birds. Now it is quiet and no birds seem to be around.


  66. Where have all the sparrows gone.
    I live in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne Australia and have noticed the decline of the sparrow over the last 20 years.

    I think there are a number if factors,the India Minor is a problem for most species of similar and smaller size because they work as a team to out compete.

    The cutting down of trees to make way for medium density housing have reduced nesting sites and seeding grasses, also the efficiency of garbage collection has seen an end to overflowing bins left uncollected for days.

    Australian birds like the the aggressive noisy minor have moved into urban settings due to drought conditions elsewhere.

    I have also noticed a decline in arachnids. All these things by themselves may not effect the sparrow but as a collection may be too much.

  67. I would be very happy to be rid of this nasty bird. It has terrorized our bluebirds and our purple martins and have actually killed them in their nests. They are not native birds to our country and are not protected. We make every effort to eradicate them from our property.

  68. I’ve had the house sparrow in 4 birdhouses for the past 10 years, but this year I have not seen any making there happy home, why?

  69. I live in South buffalo, New York. I’m wondering where all the sparrows have gone. They seemed to have disappeared about a month ago. There were so many around now they are gone. What had caused this

  70. They are all in my garden! I do always have a lot of house Sparrows on my feeders…..with only occasional other visitors…..this morning a solitary Coal Tit was soon seen off. I also have masses of Jackdaws.

  71. Well, they’re not declining in my backyard. I’ve been lucky to catch a single white-breasted nuthatch and a downy woodpecker visiting my winter feeders in Schenectady, NY, but there’s dozens of these little guys running around. Even the handful of starlings I see don’t want to get too close to these little guys. But I did see a red tailed hawk eating one near one of my feeders a month or so ago, so at least they’re good for that….

  72. Years ago went to Burger King drive-thru and below the counter was a sparrow… fast approaching the size of a softball… little beak sticking out one side, scruffy tail feathers the other, supported on a couple of claws whose legs were pushed up into its body. It tried to fly but didn’t budge. Couldn’t even waddle… just tipped over and rolled.

  73. I don’t know where you are getting this info, but these bastards are killing my barn swallows and bluebirds. I don’t know where they come from, but they are taking over my nest boxes and barn areas. If you want mine = come and get them. There is NO SHORTAGE of them here in Missouri.

    1. I was reporting on a well-documented population decline. The story did not suggest this was a conservation crisis or anything of the sort. It is just an interesting trend, and may help us understand wildlife better on our human-dominated planet. Thanks for commenting.

  74. Hi Matthew,

    Have you considered/researched the adverse effects of geoengineering, climate engineering and Solar Radiation Management (SRM) re decline in sparrow population? The effects of geoengineering activities are toxic to both humans and animals. This website has good information about geoengineering:

  75. In the book “The Invisible Rainbow, A History of Electricity and Life” Chapter 16 (Bees, Birds, Trees, and Humans pages 326-328) author Arthur Firstenberg references several studies showing the proliferation of cell phone towers and thus, increase in microwave radiation, particularly around urban parks, as a direct cause of the decline of House Sparrows in several urban areas around the world. Very alarming.

  76. If sparrows were to disappear from my city, I would miss them big deal; together with doves, pigeons and few other species, they are the only birds that have adapted to live in the cold, ugly and lifeless places we have built. Most other birds are disappearing as well, call them “invasive” or “native”, we are for a lifeless world, maybe not long into the future.

    Recommended read:
    Decline of the North American avifauna, Kenneth V. Rosenberg, October 2019, Science.

  77. I do not care for the English House Sparrow. When I was a boy they drove out the bluebirds near my home and bullied other small birds from the feeders. My father used to trap and hunt them. They were everywhere in town, under awnings and roof rafters, their bird dropping lining the sidewalks, making an unhealthy mess. However, I have noticed a big decline of their population here in Georgia. I do not see them in rural neighborhoods anymore–absolutely none whatsoever. The few that I still see, and even they have decreased, are in the towns. I don’t think there’s one easy explanation for their decline, but I do believe farming practices and the lack of spilled grain, grist mills, etc. have played a hand in it. The good side to this story, I have seen an upswing in the Bluebird population here in Georgia.

  78. I’ve been wondering for a long time why these somewhat annoying feathered friends were declining. Thanks for informing me. House finches and blue birds are more welcome neighbors now. ?

  79. We found that our sparrows disappeared about 3 weeks ago
    This appears to have coincided with our neighbours spraying their house to remove spiders.
    This is very sad as we enjoyed them filling the bushes.

    Is this coming?

  80. I love seeing the sparrows but unfortunately they are a very rare sight in my garden now as it seems to be seagulls, magpies and crows and I fear for the little sparrow although I love the blue ties and the wrens that appear daily. Come on little sparrow come back to us.

  81. I have a good flock of sparrows in the back garden which I feed , but for the last three weeks there has been nothing , a neighbour about two gardens away had a large fir tree cut down and the sparrows did roost in it at night , could that be the reason for the disappearance . I have two small trees at the bottom of the garden and the sparrows loved hanging out in them chirping and argueing with each other plus nest boxes dotted about which they nested in but now they’ve all gone what’s the answer.

  82. About a week ago (end of September) I couldn’t believe the racket the House Sparrows were making outside. I went out to look and saw a flow of excited and very noisy sparrows sitting, hopping and flying around the guttering of my house. As I look out of my window now (first week of October) in Plymouth, England, there is a not a sparrow in sight, in fact no birds at all. It made me wonder if House Sparrows migrate in the winter, but apparently not. So I wonder where they have all gone. The silence is quite eerie.

  83. Thank you Matthew for your article.
    I live 25 kilometres Southeast of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
    I first noticed a rapid decline in the numbers of House Sparrow in my area in the mid 1990’s. In the early 90’s, it was rare to go anywhere in my home state without seeing flocks of hundreds of sparrows. The large bush land areas, State and National parks was the exception, they were still in the parks in small numbers only around picnic areas.
    By 2005 it was rare to see more than a few birds anywhere. By approximately 2010 they were all but extinct in most of the state of Victoria. I haven’t seen a sparrow in my area in a decade.
    In the semi-arid grain belt in the northwest of the state, they still persisted in small flocks of 20-50 predominantly around farm houses.
    The speed at which the species has disappeared astounded me.
    I have seen a noticeable decline in other introduced species, the Thrush and the Indian Minor.
    I initially thought it must have been cause by a disease.
    I also speculated that there may have been a connection between decline in introduced bird populations and the release of Calicivirus in Australia to eradicate rabbits.
    That is probably unlikely if the decline is world.

  84. Interesting reading !
    I have been worried for some time about the disappearance of the common sparrow here in rural Brittany. Delighted, therefore, to see ( I think ) two sparrows in our garden. It may be aggressive and sometimes rather a pest but can we really tolerate the disappearance of any species?
    My Brittany bird chart gives: “moineau friquet and moineau domestique”.
    Which-is-which ? – in English, please !
    David Byron. Pluvigner. Morbihan Brittany. Fr.

  85. I have had sparrows feeding from my feed tables until the end of July, Suddenly they have disappeared
    could you please tell me why, As there were dozens around nesting in house roofs and feeding young.
    Kind Regards Peter Harrison.