Please note: Following a decision by the Curracag Committee to streamline their online presence an announcement was made at the AGM on 8th February 2017 that this forum will be closing. The date of closure will be the 28th February. All discussion will now take place on the Curracag Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/curracag

If you are particularly interested in birds, in light of the Curracag decision, Outer Hebrides Birds has totally re-vamped their website and will now contain details of sightings, photographs, discussion and a number of resources for birds and birding in the Outer Hebrides. Please head to Outer Hebrides Birds where sign up/registration for users is open. As well as sign up using traditional methods OHB also have the facility for you to sign up/sign in using your Facebook or Twitter account.

Colour Ringed House Sparrows

This is the place to discuss anything to do with birds or birding in the Outer Hebrides
Post Reply
User avatar
MisterT
Curracag Member
Curracag Member
Posts: 313
Joined: 15 Mar 2012, 12:31
Contact:

Colour Ringed House Sparrows

Post by MisterT » 17 Apr 2013, 17:20

Please note that all previous posts relating to Colour Ringed House Sparrows can be found at Colour Ringed House Sparrows - Previous Posts

Image

As we enter the third year of study here at Askernish, it gives me the first opportunity to look at the resident population of House Sparrows in the study area compared to previous years. As we enter the 2013 season, the population has risen from 51 in 2012 to 64 this year, an increase of 25%. There is also a much more of an even balance between the sexes with almost equality (33M, 31F) compared to last year (28M, 23F).

Of the 51 individuals in 2012, 36 survived through to this season. Preliminary analysis would suggest that the Females had a higher survival rate than that of Males with 18 of the 23 making it through to this season compared with only 18 of the 28 Males.

Of this years 28 new recruits, all of which were ringed between April 2012 – March 2013, 19 were juveniles from 2012 whom have remained within the study area although 2 individuals were recorded in South Glendale before returning in 2013. Another 2 were Females ringed as adults in the 2012 RAS season, and 7 were ringed as adults between August 2012 – March 2013. The latter birds are presumed to be wandering juveniles from 2012.

As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see how the dynamics change yet again. Of most interest to me will be if the increase in population is sustainable. Initial thoughts are that this will be dependant upon breeding opportunities/nesting habitat and food availability.

As always, if you should see any of these birds with their distinctive black and white rings in your garden or on your travels, I would be very interested to hear about it. You can post the sighting here on the forum or email me at askernish.sparrows@gmail.com

Breakdown of the current House Sparrow Population in Askernish
Image

User avatar
MisterT
Curracag Member
Curracag Member
Posts: 313
Joined: 15 Mar 2012, 12:31
Contact:

Re: Colour Ringed House Sparrows - An Update

Post by MisterT » 23 Jul 2013, 15:47

No two RAS seasons are ever the same and trying to predict what will happen is almost an impossible task.

Much to our surprise this year, no unringed adults were seen until a male was caught in early July. This means that either we have colour ringed every individual in Askernish (no mean feat if this were true) or other birds resident outside our study area are not foraging here in Askernish. Either way, this was a surprising development and one worthy of note for future reference.

It would appear that we have “lost” 3 adult birds this year. One, which was ever present up to March and has not been seen since then. An additinal 2 have disappeared in the past few months.

Breeding success has been better than 2011 but not as good as last year with most pairs raising a single brood. Fledged juveniles were some 14 days later than last year, probably due to the colder than usual spring.

To date 118 juveniles have been colour ringed but some late broods have still to be caught. As before, many have already dispersed, and indeed, one juvenile (G58) has already been seen in South Glendale (11Km), only 12 days after it was originally ringed and a further 5 now frequent a garden in Daliburgh some 3 Km away.

Birds are currently being ringed with numbers in the range H00 – H99. Should any House Sparrow with a white ring engraved with black lettering visit your garden, I would be very pleased to know. I can be contacted here on the forum or email me at askernish.sparrows@gmail.com
Last edited by MisterT on 28 Nov 2013, 09:29, edited 1 time in total.

Paul
Curracag Member
Curracag Member
Posts: 82
Joined: 04 May 2012, 16:30

Re: Colour Ringed House Sparrows

Post by Paul » 22 Nov 2013, 17:05

At last I have a colour ringed House Sparrow in the garden> it is H23 (female type). All the ones from last winter seemed to disappear over the summer & I thought maybe the sparrowhawk had eaten then all as I regularly found little piles of feathers under the trees.
Paul

User avatar
MisterT
Curracag Member
Curracag Member
Posts: 313
Joined: 15 Mar 2012, 12:31
Contact:

Re: Colour Ringed House Sparrows

Post by MisterT » 22 Nov 2013, 21:07

Hi Paul,

This is good news indeed! This bird was ringed on here in Askernish on 21/07/13, seen again on the 22nd and not then until it appeared in your garden! Unlike last year when there were many sightings from 4 sites, this is only the 7th bird to be reported this year.

I am currently endeavouring to pen a summary of the RAS season, but it is an ongoing and an ever evolving situation at present. This is because the sparrow population here in Askernish has been in decline since August. Bill has found several dead birds and has sent them off for autopsy and we have only just received the results this very evening and will try and make sence of the results over the weekend. It sounds as if you too may have been finding dead birds and, unfortunate to say, it may not be the natural predator that you currently suspect!

Should you find any recently dead birds, could you let Bill or myself know and we will collect them, but please don't freeze them. This apparently affects the results of the autopsy. Bill may well be in contact soon.

Many thanks for the report

User avatar
MisterT
Curracag Member
Curracag Member
Posts: 313
Joined: 15 Mar 2012, 12:31
Contact:

April - November 2013 review

Post by MisterT » 26 Nov 2013, 21:36

Now that our third RAS season (April – August) has come to a close, it is time to take stock and analyse how the House Sparrows here in Askernish have fared compared with previous years.

In March, prior to the season beginning, there were 64 birds (33 male/31 female) in our study area. Of these, 3 birds, all females, were juveniles from 2012 which had returned after an absence of 6 months, one individual residing in South Glendale (11km) for 3 months before returning. During the season, an additional 2 adult males were caught and colour-ringed. These 2 birds were the only adults to be caught during the RAS season, a significant reduction on previous years

A total of 2681 field observations were made during the five month period which indicated a total of 61 adults being present. This compares favourably with the previous year when 57 adults were observed plus a further 19 were caught for the first time, of which 3 remained.

A total of 124 juveniles were colour-ringed, a reduction of 59 from last year. This was probably due to the cold spring delaying the breeding season with the first juveniles not seen until 2nd June, some 2 weeks later than last year. 2012 was also considered to be a very productive year with many pairs double brooding but unfortunately, there was no evidence of that occurring this year.

Reports of dispersing birds came from 3 sites, all being locations that have reported birds in previous years. South Glendale (2 birds – 11km), had far fewer colour ringed birds this year while Carnan (24km) reported just 1 which was outside of the RAS season. Daliburgh (3km) saw a big increase with 13 individuals being reported in the RAS season, then a futher 2 in Septeber and yet another 2 in late November. It is interesting to note that only 1 bird reported in previous years from these sites still remains in-situ, that being B25 at South Glendale, a bird from 2011. None of last years juveniles (2012) were seen at any of these sites after May of this year.

Of the birds reported in the RAS season, all were known to be juveniles. Most only stayed at these sites for a few days, the exception being 2 birds at Dalibrugh (G50 & H13), both staying for a month or more. Indeed, H13 stayed at Daliburgh until mid August before moving to South Glendale were it resided until September. Another (H27) went from Askernish to Daliburgh where it was seen for 1 day before returning to Askernish a few days later.

The 2 birds that appeared in November at Daliburgh were still to be found in Askernish just a few days before, one being a long staying juvenile, the other ringed in October and presumed to be a wandering first year bird..

As the season drew to an end, our House Sparrow fortunes changed. At the end of August, only 46 (22 male/24 female) of the original 64 birds and 1 of the 2 adult males ringed during the RAS season remained. Only 23 of the juveniles were also to be found making a total of 70 birds in our study area, a reduction of 22 on the previous year.

This could, in part, be explained by the presence of a young female Sparrowhawk in August, but more worryingly, 3 dead birds were found, plus another found dead in Daliburgh (4km). Finding a dead bird is an unusual enough occurrence in itself, but to find 4 in a very short period of time would indicate that something might be amiss. A simple, crude autopsy was performed on one bird, primarily looking at crop contents, but nothing untoward was found. There were however several small lesions to be found on its neck and back.

This population decline continued with only 47 birds being recorded during the month of September, a near 50% decline compared to the previous year. Several birds were observed with feather loss, especially round the head, and others with puffy or closed eyes. Some of the these birds did recover although the replacement feathers, be they head or flight feathers, were now white, even though these birds had not exhibited any leucistic tendencies prior to this.

Analysis of the sightings from August through to October indicated that it was the older birds that suffered the most, although we have no way of telling how the juveniles were affected due to dispersal. The number of individuals from the original population ringed in 2010 was reduced from 21 birds in August to just 7 in October. In this instance, it has shown the value of continuing the RAS protocol of recording sightings throughout the year and not just for the breeding season.

At the time of writing (November), numbers would appear to have stabilised although at what level is still to be determined. The birds have now become extremely shy and retiring, hardly ever leaving Bill’s garden, making monitoring the situation almost impossible without his invaluable assistance.

Once again, through Bill’s persistence and long established network of contacts, autopsies were conducted on our specimens by Tom Pennycott (SAC). Extracts of his findings are as follows:-

“Definitely something odd going on in house sparrows in the islands

One of your pictures shows what looks like avian pox lesions on the skin (not uncommon) or it could be bacterial, and the other has more unusual lesions on the head. And one of the birds you sent me had thickened crusty skin on one thigh and the head.

Cultures from the latter bird have demonstrated the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus from the lesions, but no parasitic mites. Staphylococcus aureus is well recognised as causing skin lesions in other species of animal and bird, but why sparrows?

In addition to the skin lesions both sparrows had thickened gullets suggestive of trichomonosis (a protozoal infection), and in the past few weeks we have also had sparrows with presumed trichomonosis submitted from Mull and Lewis, not places we commonly get birds from.

Unfortunately the freezing process prevented us from doing more tests, but we would certainly be interested in examining more carcasses (ideally fresh but frozen if in the freezer) to see what else we find.

So please, if you come across any more cases, we would like to see them.”


Exactly where this leaves our sparrows and the wider population is unclear. It would now seem that avian pox and other fatal diseases have inevitably spread to the Inner and Outer Hebrides and is affecting many species and may indeed explain why there has also been a noticable decline of Greenfinch here in Askernish. Since being made aware of the situation, we have received several more reports from other parts of the island where House Sparrows have been found dead or dying. With these infections being at their most virulent during the summer period, it is to be hoped that the current sparrow population level can be maintained and improved upon next year, and we shall of course be monitoring the situation.

On a lighter note, a total of 581 House Sparrows have now been ringed since our project began in 2010. All these birds are sporting colour rings that are white with black lettering which consists of A00-99, B00-99, C00-99, F00-99, G00-99 and H00-99. Once again, we appeal to anyone who sees one of our colour-ringed birds to report the sighting by emailing us at askernish.sparrows@gmail.com or via the Curracag Forum which can be found at viewtopic.php?f=3&t=677

Yet again, our thanks go to Bill for the time and effort he expends helping us with this project. His records are always concise and accurate and the project would be all the poorer without him. We also thank all those who took the time and trouble to report their sightings to us. We can assure you that it is very much appreciated.

Image
House Sparrow showing white replacement feathers

Image
lesions found during autopsy

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest