Peter is an independent international zoo consultant, critic and writer with over 50 years work within zoos.
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
World Sparrow Day
World Sparrow Day was first celebrated on March 20th in 2008 from an initiative by French and Indian nature organizations. the day is to raise awareness of the Sparrow and threats it may face.
There are around 25 species of Sparrow and can be found in most countries of the world. Though originating the North African European/Asian region they have introduced accidentally or deliberately to much of the rest.
Today they are amongst the most common wild bird on the planet. Although very much a home bird rarely straying more than a kilometer from home there are small populations which will migrate.
World Sparrow Day coincides with the International Day of Happiness. Let's be happy we still share our planet with Sparrows.
The Great Sparrow Disaster
In 1958 the Chinese leader Mao Zedong got it into his head that Sparrows ate far too much grain and so he implemented a policy that it was the populations duty to kill all sparrows. This was called "Smash Sparrow"打麻雀运动 .
The population dutifully followed his orders and over a two year period millions of sparrows were killed, the birds nearly becoming extinct in China.
It turned out that Sparrows did not eat grain but consumed countless millions of insect pests as well. Without the sparrows the pests thrived and increased in numbers. There was a huge increase in locusts which without the sparrows ate everything in their path.
It is estimated that somewhere between 15 and 40 million Chinese people starved to death in the Great Chinese Famine. The campaign to kill sparrows ended in 1960.
Realizing their mistake huge numbers of Sparrows were imported from Russia. Today the Chinese population has recovered.
Mao Zedong was not the first person to make this ecological mistake. In the 1700's in parts of Europe various governments tried to eliminate the Sparrow. In Russia you could lowere your taxes based on the number of Sparrow heads you turned over.
The Sparrow population is declining. This is mainly due to habitat loss and increased levels of pollution. Some people blame Sparrowhawks as they are increasing. Previously nesting under the eaves of houses modern housing does not offer this opportunity.
The Sparrow population has dropped by half in the last 40 years. The population continues to decline.
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