Sparrows give trees a miss to perch among people

Local | Katherine Au 19 Jul 2016

There are about 320,000 Eurasian tree sparrows in Hong Kong, with the highest number in Tuen Mun and the least in Kwan Ching.

That estimate is by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, which arrived at the figure after a first sparrow census on May 8 involving 427 citizens aged from six to 80.

The Eurasian tree sparrow (scientific name: Passer montanus) in Hong Kong lives mostly in residential or recreational areas. Agricultural and industrial areas have relatively few birds, which shows the sparrow has adapted to living around people. Reports from other places point to it being more at home in agricultural settings.

Society manager Yu Yat-tung said the objective of the survey was to raise the awareness of citizens about the natural habitat of the birds and to promote science education.

It was the first time the society organized such a program - this one under the theme of Keeping Common Birds Common - "and we hope people will pay more attention to the natural environment and respect nature," Yu added.

The survey covered all 18 districts of Hong Kong, with a one-kilometer transect line placed randomly in every district. The watchers-counters also recorded finding 65 sparrow's nests. It is reckoned about 70 percent of sparrows nest near human habitation areas and only 10 percent in trees. Chicks accounted for 1 percent of the spotted population.

Society senior investigator Pang Chun-chiu said the survey was in May as that is usually a period of reproduction when it is easier to spot the birds. So there will be a repeat effort some time in the April-June period next year.

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