Monthly Archives: April 2015


This first appeared in on Bird Table News in 2009 but Kate’s 2007 findings could be  relevant today  –


Everyone knows the house sparrow but not many give it a second glance.  A detailed survey into sparrow breeding showed some reasons why urban sparrow numbers may be dropping.

I admire the sparrow.  I think, without realising it, I’ve seen at least one a day for the past 20 years.  I’ve taken this little sparrow for granted.

Yet it’s success is closely tied to our own.

Sparrows are thought to have spread across Europe from Africa at the time of Neolichic man!  So they have been connected to us through history.  What a story they would tell if they could speak.

Colonies of house sparrows that live near an isolated farm or on an island only seem to survive as long as man is there.  This ability they have to use what man provides enables them to have up to 3 broods a year.

Yet in some areas house sparrows are declining.  Farming methods have sometimes been blamed but this is not the complete picture.

Kate Vincent a student from Leicester’s University collected data about urban sparrows.

Kate is very dedicated.  In 2007 she studied 619 nest boxes in Leicester which she put up over the previous three years.

She found that in urban areas the second or third broods of chicks are dying  in the nest.    The reason for this is unknown but starvation or infection could be a cause.

In some places the number of deaths is so big that the population of the house sparrow is dropping.

One of the reasons could be that early and late broods do have different diets.  Spring chicks are fed on beetles and daddy longlegs.  The midsummer birds are fed on smaller insects like aphids.  Aphids are plant eating insects – so lets get planting!

When the chicks are born, when they are at their most vulnerable, they eat only insects   and if there are not enough insects they will die of starvation.

Kate’s research and survey is really  valuable. It is relevant today and does provides questions as well as answers.




I too have lost loads of primal petals to cheeky house sparrows… They seem to love the blue ones but they haven’t demolished the yellow or red ones… I find it most peculiar because the only chomp on the main colour but leave the yellow centres! Are they just discerning diners?


Rachel got in touch because she read this post –

I still find it amazing what birds eat.  Rachel has called the sparrows ‘discerning diners’.  It could be that they are.  We don’t know, but  I do remember reading that birds do need herbs / certain plants that are in the wild and  other natural things to keep healthy and to breed healthily.





A heartfelt plea from a read of Bird Table News who is trying to feed our garden birds   —

  • My 4 port feeder hangs from a tree branch and is frequently emptied by the wind swaying it about -the ground is littered with seed -a feast for rats and mice -why don’t manufacturers recognise this problem
  • I replied —
  • I do agree with you 100%  It is the bain of my life seeing wind, rain and sometimes snow waste all the bird food that I have bought and put out to feed the birds.  I often go out in the wind and rain and then minutes later it has either blown away or is wet through and ‘gungy’.I’m working on a bird feeder that really does keep bird food dryI’m pleased you sent this comment as it makes me realise that other people have the same problem as me. Will be putting details on Bird Table News soon



This morning I was  so angry.  My new hanging bird feeder has fallen apart.   I cannot take it back as I bought it about a month ago.   Also I can’t remember where I bought it from.  It hasn’t got any manufacturer’s name on it

I haven’t used it very often but today I filled it with birdfood, went outside to hang it up and the bottom fell off!  I ask you – what on earth are manufacturers thinking of making a bird feeder that comes apart at the base.  All the bird food fell from the feeder and  scattered in a heap on the lawn and I knew the rooks and crows and pigeons, mice and pheasants would soon come and eat it.

What a stupid way to make a bird feeder.  The base of the feeder is only clipped on.  What a waste of my time and money.  Who would make such a bird feeder?

I can’t use it any more.

Maybe I should try making my own.




Possible reasons for blackbirds with white feathers

From Christina –

I live in the United Kingdom. I live in a semi rural village 10 miles from Liverpool city centre.

For about 4 years I’ve seen many birds of the appearance and size of a blackbird (black with the exception of white feathers on the tail, and yellow beak) feeding for worms on the grass.

I’ve never seen them fly or resting on a fence post, trampoline, or bird bath of which we have plenty in our garden. I’ve also never been able to photograph one, as even through a window they flee quickly once spotted, dashing across the ground between a ground level hedge.

Around the same time, ironically my hairdresser identified my hair although very dark in colour, has developed a pure white streak of hairs at the centre bottom (honestly). Identical to the type of bird in question. Very amusing to my family, who now call me “birdie hair”. But on a more serious note it makes me wonder if it is something environmental which perhaps the birds are also exposed to?!?!


Hello Christina,
Here is some information I discovered about blackbirds with white tail feathers.  It seems to show that the white feathers are a sign the birds aren’t in tip top condition.

Interesting about your hair.  My hair is dark with white streaks as well!  Perhaps we are both lacking in some vitamins!

Reasons why blackbirds (and other birds ) have white feathers :

Lack of a good diet
Injury to the bird can cause a white feather to grow
Circulary problems that the bird has had at the time that its feathers were developing.
The bird is ageing and old.
Some of the feathers do not have pigments such as melanins.

The name for a bird with white feathers is ‘albino’. Partial albino means a bird has some white feathers on some portions of its body.

Note: A bird that is naturally white such as a swan, is not classed as an albino bird

Often other birds do not like birds that are different to them and birds will kill a bird like this (this could be why I never saw my white tailed blackbird in among a group of blackbirds)

Hope this helps. So all in all white feathers seem to be a sign that the bird is not in tip top condition. This is another good reason to put bird food out for our feathered friends
If anyone has any other information please let me know.

Christina got in touch because of this article from 2009
Bird Table News