Monday 11 January 2021

House Sparrow project update

With 2020 over, I accessed my House Sparrow data on Demon and found that I ringed 475 new birds during the year. 367 of these birds were identified as birds of the year and 70 were adults/breeders from 2019 or earlier. 38 of the birds were caught post autumn moult and so ageing could not be specific. In addition, a further 14 birds ringed between 2017 and 2019 were also reencountered however this figure is considered light as annual totals for the species in this period were relatively low (2017:28, 2018:124, 2019:49). The resulting number of individuals encountered during 2020 totalled 489.

In mid-October 2020, I began to fit colour rings to all birds. By the 31st of December, 52 rings had been fitted and so the process of sighting and recording began. I contacted all the householders in the village to inform them of the ringing and was pleasantly surprised to be contacted by three interested parties. While looking for colour rings on days when I chose not to ring, I was quite surprised to see numerous individuals that did not have a metal ring fitted and so with a little more effort I might have got to the 500 figure!

The 52 birds colour ringed comprised of 30 new birds and 22 reencounters with 8 of these being individuals from previous years which is probably sufficient to show how difficult it can be to recatch the savvy House Sparrow.

I built several ‘potter’ type traps to avoid mist netting regularly, but these traps have proved completely unsuccessful in respect of House Sparrows. The garden is large enough to allow some randomly positioned nets now and again. As my hens are inside due to avian flu precautions, the robbing Sparrows are not lurking around the chicken hut at feeding time so no point in mist netting the bushes in that area now. Little depressions in the ground in my poly tunnel path tell me that birds are dust bathing so I will have a net up in there one day and possibly catch the culprits. It will not be long before amorous birds are hammering around the garden and catches will increase if I keep plenty of bag in the net.

I use modified circlip pliers to fit the mini darvic rings. Ideally, I would have fitted the rings so that they can be read from the bottom upwards when viewed from the outside. Immediately I found that the direction of coiling meant that I would have to fit the rings to read top downwards to minimise the opening of the ring while maintaining good visual aspect during fitting. This may be partly down to my technique, but you need to work in a safe and comfortable way. To date, I have broken one ring, the first ring, by trying to open it too far. I have found that dropping the rings into warm (not hot) water is enough to relieve the stress in the ring especially when the ambient temperature is low.

Perseverance and luck, may get me at least another 50 birds colour ringed prior to the appearance of any offspring in 2021. With the cold start to 2021, I have not done much ringing and only have two birds to report. Female NF10558 (not colour ringed) was found fresh dead next to my car on the 4th of Jan with a mass of only 22.5g. The bird was ringed on the 23rd of Feb. 2019 and never reencountered. The first colour ring of the year (N53) was fitted to a female first ringed on the 17th of November 2018 and reencountered on the 14th of July 2020. These low encounter rates already contrast to N41, colour ringed on the 6th of December 2020. Originally ringed on the 28th of September 2018, it was reencountered on the 9th of July 2020 and has been sighted five times at two locations since being colour ringed.


  1. Dear personal os the Teifi ringing group,
    I'm Diego Villanua,a ringer from Spain.
    I like so much your blog, it is very interesting and I read it every week. Congratulations!
    I am glad that you have started a project with the house Sparrow, I also love common species!
    I think you may be interested in the website of my friend Javier Blasco, where he explains how to differentiate the male sparrows euring 5 and 6. There is the link:

    I Hope It will be useful to you.
    Best regards and I m sorry Gor muy vas english

    1. Thank you Diego.
      For our followers, this is the English version of the link to the very useful website
      Wendy (Teifi Ringing Group)


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