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’ dwindling sparrow population: can they rebound?

A study has found that in the last 13 years, 75% of the city’s sparrow population has disappeared. Beloved by locals, what has happened to them and how can the decline be reversed?

Between 2003 and 2016, three-quarters of sparrows – moineau in French – have disappeared. This is according to a study commissioned by the Town Hall and carried out by CORIF, the Centre Ornithologique d’Ile-de-France and the LPO, the Ligue pour les Oiseaux.

“In 2003, the neighborhoods with the highest price per meter square had the smallest population of sparrows. In 2016, a balancing out was recorded as the population in the center fell 49% while the peripheries saw an 83% fall,” said Fredereic Malher, CORIF’s president.

The report follows a series of similar ones carried out in other major European cities, including London. Hundreds of volunteers carried out observations of designated sites over the 13 years of study, which CORIF and LPO hope will help “to find solutions before it is too late.”

Some point to modern renovations to buildings as the major cause behind the loss of sparrows in the city. As facades are renovated and old structures revitalized, nooks and crannies that were once their abode disappear.

“The birds like to set up homes in cavities: with renovation works, these are increasingly scarce,” says Malher.

Pesticides that kill insects are also blamed for depleting sparrows’ feed, further reducing the population. The organisations say that the youngest birds are the most affected by this factor.

What Mahler and other bird-lovers suggest is the widespread – but targeted – installation of birdhouses to attract and feed the sparrows. Revegetation of ’ rooftops, a long-time goal of current mayor Anne Hidalgo, is also said to be a viable way to increase the dwindling population.

“Install birdhouses, ban pesticides and let wild vegetation grow in the city,” one local, who installed a birdhouse on his balcony, told French press. The topic was recently focused on by French TV in a short news report.

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