Advertisement

Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 1053–1065 | Cite as

Depleted suburban house sparrow Passer domesticus population not limited by food availability

  • Will J. PeachEmail author
  • John W. Mallord
  • Nancy Ockendon
  • Chris J. Orsman
  • William G. Haines
Article

Abstract

Little is known about the environmental factors that limit the demography and abundance of wild vertebrates in highly modified urban environments. The House Sparrow Passer domesticus is a globally widespread species whose urban populations have recently undergone substantial declines particularly in Europe. The environmental drivers of these declines remain unknown. In a previous study we showed that invertebrate availability during the breeding season limited reproductive success but not population size in a suburban sparrow population. In this study we test experimentally whether year-round food availability limits demography and population size. Supplementary feeding involved the provision of invertebrate prey (during the breeding season) plus unlimited high-energy seed (year-round) at 33 sparrow colonies spread across suburban London over two successive calendar years. Thirty-three unfed colonies served as controls. Supplementary feeding increased fledgling abundance, but had no impact on overwinter survival or population size. We conclude that this depleted suburban sparrow population is not limited by food availability, and conservation efforts based primarily on food provision are unlikely to succeed. We also tested whether cross-colony variation in sparrow abundance was correlated with a set of potential environmental stressors including measures of predator abundance and pollution. Sparrows were more abundant, or showed more positive temporal changes in abundance, at localities containing large areas of seed-rich habitat and low levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollution. Further research is merited into the potential impacts of air pollution on the fitness of urban birds.

Keywords

Air pollution Avian conservation Avian demography Food limitation Supplementary feeding Urban birds 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are indebted to the residents of London who allowed access to their gardens and put out supplementary food each day. We are grateful to Howard Vaughan and Daria Dadam who helped with fieldwork, to Anne-Marie Knight (LiveFoodsDirect Ltd.) who managed mealworm deliveries to volunteers, and to Adam Butler and David Elston (BioSS) for statistical advice. We thank David Dajnak (Environmental Research Group, Kings College, London) for providing air pollution data, and Isaac Jamieson (Imperial College, London) for the loan of an EMR spectrum analyser and sampling advice. The study was funded by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Supplementary material

11252_2018_784_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 26 kb)

References

  1. Anderson TR (2006) Biology of the ubiquitous house sparrow. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker PJ, Molony SE, Stone E, Cuthill IC, Harris S (2008) Cats about town: is predation by free-ranging pet cats likely to affect urban bird populations. Ibis 150(Suppl. 1):86–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barber JR, Crooks KR, Fristrup KM (2009) The costs of chronic noise exposure for terrestrial organisms. Trends Ecol Evol 25:180–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bell CP, Baker SW, Parkes NG, de L. Brooke M, Chamberlain DE (2010) The role of the Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) in the decline of the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) in Britain. Auk 127:411–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bichet C, Scheifler R, Coeurdassier M, Julliard R, Sorci G, Loiseau C (2013) Urbanization, trace metal pollution and malaria prevalence in the house sparrow. PLoS One 8(1):e53866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bonnington C, Gaston KJ, Evans KL (2013) Fearing the feline: domestic cats reduce avian fecundity through trait-mediated indirect effects that increase nest predation by other species. J Appl Ecol 50:15–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bradley CA, Altizer S (2007) Urbanization and the ecology of wildlife diseases. Trends Ecol Evol 22:95–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brichetti P, Rubolini D, Galeotti P, Fasola M (2008) Recent declines in urban Italian sparrow (Passer domesticus italiae) populations in northern Italy. Ibis 150:177–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brittingham MC, Temple SA (1988) Impacts of supplementary feeding on survival rates of black-capped chickadees. Ecology 69:581–589CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chamberlain DE, Toms MP, Cleary-McHarg R, Banks AN (2007) House sparrow habitat use in urbanized landscapes. J Ornithol 148:453–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chamberlain DE, Cannon AR, Toms MP, Leech DI, Hatchwell BJ, Gaston KJ (2009) Avian productivity in urban landscapes: a review and meta-analysis. Ibis 151:1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chase JF, Walsh JJ (2006) Urban effects on native avifauna: a review. Landsc Urban Plan 74:46–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Churcher PB, Lawton JH (1987) Predation by domestic cats in an English village. J Zool (Lond) 212:439–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clergeau P, Croci S, Jokimaki J, Kaisanlahti-Jokimaki M-L, Dinnetti M (2006) Avifauna homogenisation by urbanisation: analysis at different European latitudes. Biol Conserv 127:336–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Costantini D (2008) Oxidative stress in ecology and evolution: lessons from avian studies. Ecol Lett 11:1238–1251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dandapat A, Banerjee D, Chakraborty D (2010) The case of the disappearing house sparrow (Passer domesticus indicus). Vet World 3:97–100Google Scholar
  17. Davies L, Bates JW, Bell JNB, James PW, Purvis OW (2007) Diversity and sensitivity of epiphytes to oxides of nitrogen in London. Environ Pollut 146:299–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. De Laet J, Peach WJ, Summers-Smith JD (2011) Protocol for censusing urban sparrows. Brit Birds 104:255–260Google Scholar
  19. Erskine AJ (2006) Recent declines of house sparrows in Canada’s maritime provinces. Can Field Nat 120:43–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Everaert J, Bauwens D (2007) A possible effect of electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone base stations on the number of breeding house sparrows. Electromagn Biol Med 26:63–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fleischer RC, Lowther PE, Johnston RF (1984) Natal dispersal in house sparrows: possible causes and consequences. J Field Ornithol 55:444–456Google Scholar
  22. Fuller RM, Smith GM, Sanderson JM, Hill RA, Thomson AG, Cox R, et al (2002) Countryside Survey 2000 module 7: Land cover map 2000. Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, NERC, UKGoogle Scholar
  23. Gaston KJ, Bennie J, Davies TW, Hopkins J (2013) The ecological impacts of nighttime light pollution: a mechanistic appraisal. Biol Rev 88:912–927CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Grimm NB, Faeth SH, Golubiewski NE, Redman CL, Wu J, Bai X et al (2008) Global change and the ecology of cities. Science 319(5864):756–760CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hanmer HJ, Thomas RL, Fellowes MDE (2017) Provision of supplementary food for wild birds may increase the risk of local nest predation. Ibis 159:158–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Heij CJ, Moeliker CW (1990) Population dynamics of Dutch house sparrows in urban, suburban, and rural habitats. In: Pinowski J, Summers-Smith JD (eds) Graniovorous birds in the agricultural landscape. PWN-polish scientific. Publishers, Warsaw, pp 59–85Google Scholar
  27. Herrera-Duenas A, Pineda J, Antonio MT, Aguirre JI (2014) Oxidative stress of house sparrow as bioindicator of urban pollution. Ecol Indic 42:6–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hole DG, Whittingham MJ, Bradbury RB, Anderson GQA, Lee PLM, Wilson JD, Krebs JR (2002) Widespread local house sparrow extinctions. Nature 418:931–932CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Isaksson C (2010) Pollution and its impact on wild animals: a meta-analysis on oxidative stress. EcoHealth 7:342–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Isaksson C (2015) Urbanization, oxidative stress and inflammation: a question of evolving, acclimatizing or coping with urban environmental stress. Funct Ecol 29:913–923CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Isaksson C, Anderson S (2007) Carotenoid diet and nestling provisioning in urban and rural great tits. J Avian Biol 38:564–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jones DN, Reynolds SJ (2008) Garden bird feeding: a global research opportunity. J Avian Biol 39:265–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kelly FJ (2003) Oxidative stress: its role in air pollution and adverse health effects. Occup Environ Med 60:612–616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Koivula MJ, Eeva T (2010) Metal related oxidative stress in wild birds. Environ Pollut 158:2359–2370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lebreton J-D, Burnham KP, Clobert J, Anderson DR (1992) Modelling survival and testing biological hypotheses using marked animals: a unified approach with case studies. Ecol Monogr 62:67–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. London Assembly (2005). Crazy paving: the environmental importance of London’s front gardens. Greater London Authority, London, UK. https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/london-assembly/london-assembly-publications/crazy-paving-environmental-importance-londons. Accessed 23 March 2018
  37. London Assembly (2007). Chainsaw massacre: a review of London’s street trees. Greater London Authority, London, UK. https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/london-assembly/london-assembly-publications/chainsaw-massacre-review-londons-street-trees. Accessed 23 March 2018
  38. McKinney ML (2008) Effects of urbanisation on species richness: a review of plants and animals. Urban Ecosyst 11:161–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Meillere A, Brischoux F, Henry P-Y, Michaud B, Garcin R, Angelier F (2017) Growing in a city: consequences of body size and plumage quality in an urban dweller, the house sparrow. Landsc Urban Plan 160:127–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mitschke A, Rathje H, Baumung S (2000) House sparrows in Hamburg: population habitat choice and threats. Hamburger Avifaunist Beitr 30:129–204Google Scholar
  41. Murgui E, Macias A (2010) Changes in the house sparrow population in Valencia (Spain) from 1998-2008. Bird Study 57:281–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Murtaugh PA (2009) Performance of several variable-selection methods applied to real ecological data. Ecol Lett 12:1061–1068CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Noble M, Wright G, Smith G, Dibben C (2006) Measuring multiple deprivation at the small-area level. Environ Plan A 38:169–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Paradis E, Baillie SR, Sutherland WJ, Gregory RD (1998) Patterns of natal and breeding dispersal in birds. J Anim Ecol 67:518–536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pauleit S, Ennos R, Golding Y (2005) Modeling the environmental impacts of urban land use and land cover change – a study in Merseyside, UK. Landsc Urban Plan 71:295–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Peach WJ, Vincent KE, Fowler JA, Grice PV (2008) Reproductive success of house sparrows along an urban gradient. Anim Conserv 11:493–503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Peach WJ, Mallord JW, Orsman CJ, Ockendon N, Haines WG (2013) Testing assumptions of a supplementary feeding experiment aimed at suburban house sparrows. Bird Study 60:308–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Peach WJ, Sheehan DK, Kirby WB (2014) Supplementary feeding of mealworms enhances reproductive success in garden nesting house sparrows. Bird Study 61:378–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Peach WJ, Mallord JW, Ockendon N, Orsman CJ, Haines WG (2015) Invertebrate prey availability limits reproductive success but not breeding population size in suburban house sparrows. Ibis 157:601–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pickett STA, Cadenasso ML, Grove JM, Boone CG, Groffman PM, Irwin E et al (2011) Urban ecological systems: scientific foundations and a decade of progress. J Environ Manag 92:331–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Plummer KE, Bearhop S, Leech DI, Chamberlain DE, Blount JD (2013) Winter food provisioning reduces future breeding performance in a wild bird. Sci Rep 3:2002.  https://doi.org/10.1038/srep02002 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Raven MJ, Noble DG, Baillie SR (2007) The breeding bird survey 2006. British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford, UK. https://www.bto.org/sites/default/files/u16/downloads/reports/bbsreport06.pdf. Accessed 23 March 2018
  53. Ringsby TH, Saether BE, Solberg EJ (1998) Factors affecting juvenile survival in house sparrow. J Avian Biol 29:241–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Robb GN, McDonald RA, Chamberlain DE, Bearhop S (2008) Food for thought: supplementary feeding as a driver of ecological change in avian populations. Front Ecol Environ 6:476–484CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Robinson RA, Lawson B, Toms MP, Peck KM, Kirkwood JK, Chantrey J et al (2010) Emerging infectious disease leads to rapid population declines of common British birds. PLoS One 5(8):e12215.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0012215 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  56. Schroeder J, Nakagawa S, Cleasby IR, Burke T (2012) Passerine birds breeding under chronic noise experience reduced fitness. PLoS One 7(7):e39200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schwagmeyer PL, Mock DW (2008) Parental provisioning and offspring fitness: size matters. Anim Behav 75:291–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Seress G, Bokony V, Pipoly I, Szep T, Nagy K, Liker A (2012) Urbanization, nestling growth and reproductive success in a moderately declining house sparrow population. J Avian Biol 43:403–414CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Shaw LM, Chamberlain D, Evans M (2008) The house sparrow Passer domesticus in urban areas: reviewing a possible link between post-decline distribution and human socio-economic status. J Ornithol 149:293–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Shochat E, Warren PS, Faeth SH, McIntyre NE, Hope D (2006) From patterns to emerging processes in mechanistic urban ecology. Trends Ecol Evol 21:186–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Summers-Smith JD (2003) The decline of the house sparrow: a review. Brit Birds 96:439–446Google Scholar
  62. Summers-Smith JD (2007) Is unleading petrol a factor in urban house sparrow decline? Brit Birds 100:558–559Google Scholar
  63. Thomas RL, Fellowes MDE, Baker PJ (2012) Spatio-temporal variation in predation by urban domestic cats (Felis catus) and the acceptability of possible management actions in the UK. PLoS One 7(11):e49369.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0049369 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  64. Tonne C, Beevers S, Armstrong B, Kelly F, Wilkinson P (2008) Air pollution and mortality benefits of the London congestion charge: spatial and socioeconomic inequalities. J Occup Environ Med 65:620–627CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Vangestel C, Mergeay J, Dawson DA, Vandomme V, Lens L (2011) Spatial heterogeneity in genetic relatedness among house sparrows along an urban-rural gradient as revealed by individual-based analysis. Mol Ecol 20:4643–4653CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Vincent KE (2006). Investigating the causes of the decline of the urban house sparrow population in Britain. PhD thesis, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. http://www.katevincent.org/. Accessed 21 March 2018
  67. Williams BK, Nichols JD, Conroy MJ (2001) Analysis and management of animal populations. Academic Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, RSPBThe LodgeBedfordshireUK

Personalised recommendations